Otto R. Kyle
Here is a book that should be on
the shelves of everyone interested
in Lincolniana . . . for it brings
forward sidelights on the beloved
President's life which have hitherto
received scant notice. This is his
Decatur story, telling of his youth-
ful coming, and his later dramatic
return to that community.
Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
opens with Lincoln, at the age of
twenty-one, arriving in the Illinois
town with his father's wagon cara-
van—thirteen persons and their
household goods ... on a raw win-
ter day in mid-March, 1830, late in
It was not a heartening sight that
greeted the eyes of the people in
the caravan— only a few log cabins
in a small clearing. The sprawling
village was but nine months old.
Yet in a span of thirty-one years
Decatur would see Abe again, this
time on his way to the White House
to assume his duties as President of
the United States.
(Continued on back flap)
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
the Class of 1901
HARLAN HOYT HORNER
HENRIETTA CALHOUN HORNER
Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2012 with funding from
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
By Permission of Decatur Public Library
This Barnwell Photograph of Lincoln was taken in Decatur, May 9th or
10th, I860, while he was attending the Illinois Republican Convention.
By OTTO R. KYLE
Editor of the Decatur Review editorial page
VANTAGE PRESS • NEW YORK
WASHINGTON • HOLLYWOOD • TORONTO
All rights reserved, including the right of
reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
Copyright, 1957, by Otto R. Kyle
Published by Vantage Press, Inc.
120 West 31st Street, New York 1, N. Y.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 56-12770
What justification is there for another book about Abra-
ham Lincoln, even a small book?
Scholars have analyzed every angle of Lincoln's life. They
have probed all the byroads and are still finding new sub-
jects that bear an imprint of Lincoln through association with
In the numerous biographies only the highlights of Lin-
coln's Decatur story have been told and these highlights gen-
erally have been reduced to bare essentials. Other portions of
the story have been told from time to time in magazines and
feature articles in newspapers. A goodly portion of the details
never have appeared in book or magazine.
It seems worth while to present the Decatur story of
Lincoln in complete factual form to fill the vacant niche. No
attempt is made to weave a romantic story or to add to the
vast personal study that has been made of Lincoln's char-
acter and his growth to become President.
It was here in Decatur that Lincoln made his first Illinois
home, made his first reported political speech, and met Den-
ton Offutt who took him to New Salem.
It was in Decatur, early in his law career, that Lincoln
1 was opposed in a trial by Stephen A. Douglas, whom he had
met in the Illinois Legislature.
Here in Decatur, while riding the circuit, he met Richard
J. Oglesby, one of the original Lincoln men, and it was here
that he first publicly associated himself with the organization
that grew into the state-wide Republican Party of Illinois.
From William J. Usrey, editor of a Decatur newspaper,
he received a letter believed to have helped prompt his chal-
lenge to Douglas for the famous debates in 1858.
It was in Decatur that he received the endorsement of the
Illinois Republican Convention for President, essential to
nomination in the National Convention in Chicago.
In Decatur he received the title of "rail splitter/'
Decatur was the scene of events that forever link Lincoln's
name with this community and this community with Lin-
coln's rise to the presidency.
Decatur Illinois Otto R. Kyle
The original manuscript of this book was born of neces-
sity. As editor of the editorial page of The Decatur Review
I was confronted with many inquiries for detailed informa-
tion about Abraham Lincoln's career in Decatur. I suggested
to the late Howard C. Schaub, for many years editor and
publisher of The Review, that a detailed history of Lincoln
in Decatur was needed. Mr. Schaub urged me to compile
The late John Valentine, then associated with Ralph
Newman in the Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago, encouraged
a thorough research and was interested in seeing that the
material should be published as a book. I then started on
practically a one-man research, which led to the writing of a
factual report on Lincoln in Decatur.
The Lindsay-Schaub newspaper files in Decatur were
searched, with particular attention being given to the scorched
remains of the available Illinois State Chronicle files for the
years during which that newspaper was published in Decatur
while Lincoln was a frequent visitor. Unfortunately, issues
of the State Chronicle for the important years of 1858 and
1860 are missing.
The University of Illinois permitted me to search its ex-
tensive newspaper files. Also, the newspaper files of the
Illinois State Historical Library in Springfield. Illinois, were
visited numerous times. Freeda B. Franklin, librarian of the
Editorial Reference Library of The New York Times, was
most helpful with her fine research concerning the exhibit of
the Lincoln Cabin in New York City.
William E. Baringer and Roy P. Basler, when each was
executive secretary of the Abraham Lincoln Association in
Springfield, Illinois, as well as Mrs. Marion D. Pratt, also
with that association for some time, gave fine assistance and
advice. The late Benjamin P. Thomas of Springfield took time
to read one of the drafts of the manuscript and gave valuable
and needed criticism. Henry Ladd Smith, director of the
School of Communications at the University of Washington,
Seattle, Washington, then with the University of Wisconsin,
read the manuscript with rewritten chapters and gave helpful
The late Dr. Harry E. Pratt, state historian of the Illinois
State Historical Library and secretary-treasurer of the Illinois
State Historical Society, not only directed my attention to
and provided numerous items of historic interest, but read
the final revision of the manuscript a few months before his
death, February 12, 1956.
The directors of the Lindsay-Schaub Newspapers Inc.,
have been most helpful in making it possible that the manu-
script appear in book form.
O. R. K.
The Arrival 1 1
Getting Acquainted 19
The First Year 27
The Log Cabin 34
Always a Whig 40
Lawyer Lincoln 44
A New Party 62
The 1856 Campaign 77
Political Rally 85
Debate Echoes 94
Unanimous Choice 100
The Election 116
To Washington 120
Lincoln Law Cases in Decatur 127
Anti-Nebraska Platform 139
The Fence Rails 143
John Hanks' s Letter 147
Constitutional Union Party 153
Lincoln's Plea of Justification 155
Affidavit for New Trial for Robert Hines 157
Lincoln Letter to John Hanks 159
Citations and Footnotes 161
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'At 21 I came to Illinois . .
— Lincoln autobiography
to Jesse W. Fell
Abraham Lincoln's association with Decatur, Illinois, was
from the middle of March, 1830, until February 11, 1861 —
almost thirty-one years.
During that period, for one year he lived seven miles west
of Decatur, his first home in Illinois. In the following years
he made numerous visits to Decatur while riding the judicial
circuit to attend court and conduct his law practice; came
for political gatherings to make speeches; was present at the
Anti-Nebraska editors' meeting that laid the foundation for
the Republican Party in Illinois; and in the Illinois Repub-
lican State Convention he received the endorsement to be
the President of the United States.
It was late afternoon in the middle of March, 1830, that
wagons containing thirteen persons and household goods
jolted into a muddy clearing, surrounded by a few log houses,
not far from the Sangamon River in Central Illinois. The
Lincoln caravan had been moving slowly for days. Lumbering
oxen pulled the lead load, fording streams, squashing through
the half frozen mud of trails that wound in and out of patches
of timber, then swung wide around swampy-ground, passed
through tall, winter-killed prairie grass, and finally mounted a
rising slope overlooking the Sangamon Valley.
This was the fourteenth day the group had been on its
way. The women and children huddled in the wagons to pro-
12 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
tect themselves from the chill of the raw, late winter air. The
men trudged beside the wagons. With axes they cleared away
the brush where necessary. It was a slow, laborious journey
with few signs of habitation, except isolated groups of cabins
along some streams, since the caravan crossed the Wabash
River on its way westward from Spencer County, Indiana.
As the wagons came to the brow of the hill overlooking
the Valley of the Sangamon, Abe Lincoln, tall and dressed
in buckskin clothes, shouted at the oxen. Others pointed to
a few log cabins as the place they were seeking. But it was
only the Ward settlement; Decatur was across the river and
a mile north. The caravan crossed the stream and struggled
up a muddy hill. The dull gray of evening was settling down,
but the end of the journey was in sight.
The wagons creaked to a halt in front of an unfinished
log building in a clearing. Nearby, smoke curled from the
chimney of one log cabin and other cabins could be seen
among the trees. Decatur now calls that muddy clearing
There was nothing in the appearance of the ungainly,
six-foot, four-inch youth that gave any hint that nearly thirty-
one years later he would arrive in Decatur again, this time on
his way to Washington to assume the duties as President of
the United States. The few persons who gathered around the
little group that late, chilly afternoon never dreamed the
black-haired young giant, in buckskin trousers and jacket,
and wearing a coonskin cap, would become a man of great
heart and soul whom the nation would forever revere.
There was nothing in the sprawling nine-months-old vil-
lage circling the roughly outlined square to give evidence
that here would be laid two of the important political step-
ping stones that would lead Lincoln to the White House.
Four city blocks had been staked out. In the center, by taking
a corner out of each block, a square had been provided —
the square in which the Lincoln caravan halted that four-
teenth day of March, 1830, while Thomas Lincoln, father of
Abraham, made inquiries about a man named John Hanks.
The Arrival 13
Thomas Lincoln learned that Hanks lived a few miles to
the northwest. He wanted to ask him about a place to live.
Young Abe, in the meantime, learned that the unfinished
log structure before them was to be the courthouse for Macon
County. It was located about halfway between the present
St. Nicholas hotel and West Main Street on a lot facing the
The development of Illinois had taken place almost with-
in the lifetime of Abe Lincoln. Nine days before he was
born in Kentucky, the territory of Illinois was organized by
an Act of Congress. When he was living in Indiana at the
age of nine, Illinois became a state. In 1830 it was growing
rapidly, being settled from south towards the north as settlers
came in from Kentucky through Indiana or crossed the Ohio
River into Southern Illinois. In 1816 a trading post had been
established eight miles northeast of the future Decatur and
a thriving business transacted with the Indians until 1826
when the Indians began to leave the vicinity. The last group
left in 1828, only two years before the Lincolns arrived.
In the fall of 1820 the first cabin home had been erected
south of the river and east of the present Lake Decatur dam.
About it grew the Ward settlement. It was at this place that
the Lincolns were directed to the new village of Decatur.
To the west, Buel Stevens had built a cabin in 1822 near
what is now Stevens Creek and about this cabin grew the
Few ventured into the prairies, a wilderness of grass six
to ten feet tall, dotted with undrained swamps infested with
mosquitoes whose bite caused chills and fever. The tough
prairie sod remained largely unbroken for another twenty
years. No one lived in Austin township of Macon County
until 1845, nor in Milam township until 1851.
That was the country represented to Thomas Lincoln as
a place of fine timber and prairies, a place of more oppor-
tunities than in Indiana.
Two years before the Lincolns joined the procession, a
stream of settlers started arriving in Central Illinois. By the
14 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
autumn of 1828 it was proposed that a piece of Shelby Coun-
ty be made into Macon County with the result that Benjamin
R. Austin, Andrew W. Smith, and John Ward made their
way through the prairie grass, swamps, and forests to Van-
dalia, the state capital, where Ninian Edwards was presiding
as governor; the State Legislature consisted of eighteen sena-
tors and thirty-six representatives.
As a result of that visit, on January 19, 1829, Macon
County, the fifty-fourth county formed in the state, was cre-
ated by an Act of the Legislature. It embraced a territory
twice as large as the present county. The "seat of justice" was
to have an area of not less than twenty acres. When the site
of that seat of justice was selected it was on ground not yet
secured from the federal government, but it was surveyed,
the plot approved, and nine months before Abraham Lincoln
arrived, the first lot in the village of Decatur was sold.
As young Abe looked about he saw a general store and
tavern to the north across the clearing, while near at hand,
to the south, was a cabin in which a post office had been
established just a week before he arrived. Mail was to come
from Shelbyville by a carrier on horseback or by stage. In
addition to the unfinished log courthouse, ten or twelve
cabins were scattered among the trees. The two streets were
filled with stumps.
This was the little settlement of Decatur to which the
Lincoln caravan had made its way. In the party were three
families — Lincoln, Hanks, and Hall — all related. There
were Thomas Lincoln, aged fifty-four; Sarah Bush Johnston
Lincoln, his wife, forty-two; Abraham Lincoln, twenty-one;
John D. Johnston, fifteen; Dennis F. Hanks, thirty-one;
Elizabeth Johnston Hanks, wife of Dennis, twenty-three;
John Hanks, eight; Sarah Hanks, seven; Nancy Hanks, five;
Harriet Hanks, four; Squire Levi Hall and his wife, Matilda
Johnston Hall, nineteen, and their child, John Hall, two. 1
Whether there were one, two, or three wagons, is uncer-
tain, though it seems likely there were two, perhaps three —
for thirteen persons had to have places to sleep and there
The Arrival 15
were household goods. "Here is the exact spot where I stood
by our wagon when we moved from Indiana 26 years ago," 2
Abraham Lincoln said to Henry C. Whitney as they stood in
the old square in May, 1856. "Our wagon" verifies that
Thomas Lincoln owned his own wagon and oxen.
"Their means of progress and conveyance were ox- wagons,
one of which Abraham Lincoln drove," 3 said William Dean
Howells in a campaign biography of Lincoln published in
1860. When Lincoln later corrected a printed copy 4 for
Samuel C. Parks of Lincoln, Illinois, he did not change the
sentence with the plural, "ox-wagons." Lincoln said prac-
tically the same thing in a short autobiography written the
same year for John Scripps, Chicago newspaper editor:
"Their mode of conveyance was wagons drawn by ox-teams,
and I drove one of the teams."
Perhaps it makes little difference how many wagons there
were but it always has been a point of interest. The executive
committee of the Lincoln National Highway Association in
reporting to Governor Louis L. Emmerson of Illinois in July,
1929, on the location of the highway for the state of Illinois,
without giving the source of its information, described the
Lincoln caravan as follows:
"The party traveled from Indiana to Illinois in two
wagons. One wagon was drawn by two yoke of oxen and the
other was drawn by horses. It is said the other oxen and
horses, tied to a wagon, followed. Abraham Lincoln drove the
oxen most of the way. The Hall and Hanks families rode in
the wagon pulled by the horses. The men walked most of the
time and each carried an axe which they used to cut their
way through brush, and to build temporary bridges across
creeks and sloughs."
Mrs. Harriet Hanks Chapman, who was Dennis Hanks's
daughter and four years old at the time she moved with her
parents and the Lincolns from Indiana to Decatur, said there
were three covered wagons, two drawn by two yoke of oxen
each and one drawn by four horses. 5
Thomas Lincoln "packed his children and sons-in-law
16 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
into a single wagon, drawn by two yoke of oxen, the com-
bined wealth of himself and Dennis Hanks and started for
the new states," 6 report Nicolay and Hay. In Indiana, the
Reverend J. Edward Murr talked to Wesley Hall who said
he often employed Thomas Lincoln as well as his son, Abra-
ham, in a tan-bark mark and that John Johnston and Abra-
ham Lincoln "obtained one yoke of oxen from the elder
Hall," 7 but no mention was made of the number of wagons.
The caravan probably came into Macon County on the
old Springfield-Paris road, which was little more than a trail,
turned north at the present Mount Gilead, almost directly
south of Decatur, and crossed the Sangamon River at Ward's
ferry. 8 Lincoln, twenty-six years later, said that as far as he
could determine they came in about where the Illinois Cen-
tral railroad was built. 9
John Ward was operating the ferry on the north fork of
the Sangamon "where the road from Shelby ville to Decatur
crosses the same." The toll charges fixed by the county com-
missioners give an idea what it cost the Lincoln caravan to
cross the river: "Footman, 614 cts.; 1 horse and man, 12i^
cts.; 1 -horse carriage, 18^4 cts -» 2-horse carriage, 25 cts.; 4-
horse carriage, 50 cts.; for each additional horse, 6i/ 2 cts.;
sheep and cattle, 3 cts."
Dennis Hanks, a first cousin of Abraham Lincoln's
mother, was ten years old when Abraham was born two miles
away from the Kentucky home of Thomas and Betsy Sparrow,
who reared Dennis. Betsy Sparrow was Dennis' aunt. A few
months after the Lincolns moved to Indiana, the Sparrows,
with Dennis, followed and built a cabin near the Lincoln
family. Five days after Nancy Hanks Lincoln died of milk
sickness, in October, 1818, Thomas and Betsy Sparrow died.
Dennis moved in with the Lincolns. 10 For eleven years there-
after Dennis Hanks and Abraham Lincoln were almost con-
Dennis married Elizabeth Johnston, Abraham's stepsister,
in 1821 when she was fifteen years old. When they came to
Decatur the family consisted of Dennis, his wife, their three
The Arrival 17
daughters, Sarah Jane, Nancy M., and Harriet, and one son,
Squire Levi Hall married Lincoln's other stepsister, Ma-
tilda, and they with their son, John, completed the party of
The adults of the caravan were anxious to find John
Hanks, a cousin of Dennis Hanks and a second cousin of
Abraham Lincoln. John Hanks was seven years old when
Abraham Lincoln was born and lived forty miles from the
Lincoln birthplace. Unlike Dennis, John Hanks did not
become well acquainted with his cousin until Abraham was
thirteen years old.
In 1822 when John Hanks was twenty-nine years old, he
joined the Lincolns in Indiana and lived there until 1826,
when he returned to Kentucky and married. Two years later,
in the fall of 1828, when the tide of immigration to Illinois
was growing rapidly, John Hanks, his wife and two children
left Kentucky for Illinois. John's father, William Hanks, Sr.,
and his uncle, Joseph Hanks, with their families, had left
Kentucky for Illinois in the summer, William Hanks set-
tling in Harristown township west of Decatur.
John Hanks came through Spencer County, Indiana,
visited the Lincolns and promised Thomas he would let him
know about the new Illinois country. When Hanks arrived in
the Sangamon River valley there was neither a Decatur nor
a Macon County. He went west along the river about eight
miles from the present site of Decatur, felled some trees and
built a rail shelter which he covered with slough grass. 11 He
prepared logs to build a cabin later but being unable to
break the prairie sod, moved near what is now known as
Boiling Springs, four miles northwest of the future county
seat of Macon County.
Hanks wrote to Thomas Lincoln, telling him "what kind
of a country it was" 12 and urged him to come. Thomas needed
little urging. In 1829 there was another outbreak of milk
sickness. Every day wagons passed on their way to Illinois.
His brother, Mordecai Lincoln, had moved to Hancock
18 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
County, Illinois. By November the Lincolns had decided to
sell their Indiana farm. In February, 1830, they signed the
deed disposing of the eighty acres and by March 1 they were
on their way.
The caravan may have camped that first night in Lincoln
Square or moved on to the John Hanks's home. As soon as
Hanks was found, he suggested as a place for the Lincolns
the Sangamon River site he first had selected for himself. It
was government land but many settlers had "squatted" on
government land intending later to buy it at $1.25 an acre.
There were logs Hanks had cut for the cabin. There was the
river, the prairie, and William Hanks, Sr. lived nearby.
Thomas Lincoln accepted the suggestion.
"His father and family settled a new place on the
north side of the Sangamon River, at the junction
of the timberland and prairie."
— Lincoln's Short Autobiography to John Locke Scripps
The log cabin home of Thomas Lincoln was erected on
a bluff overlooking the Sangamon River at the site John
Hanks had first wanted to build his home. John Hanks was
there to help Thomas Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln, Squire
Hall, Dennis Hanks, and the fifteen-year-old John D. John-
The structure fronted south towards the river three hun-
dred feet away. In the west end were the fireplace and chim-
ney. 1 The logs for the cabin were of hewed timber, the doors
and floor of puncheons; the gable and ends were boarded
with planks rived from oak; the few nails used had been
brought from Indiana. When the cabin was up, a smokehouse
and barn were erected. 2
Dennis Hanks and Squire Hall "temporarily settled in
other places in the county." 3 While Dennis Hanks said he
bought a little improvement near Lincoln's home "six miles
from Decatur," 4 there is no record of a land entry or a deed
in Dennis Hanks's name in Macon County for the years
1830-31. "Dennis Hanks came out in the summertime," 5
John Hanks related, indicating that Dennis may have lived
20 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
in or near Decatur. The Hall family seems to have been for-
gotten except for Lincoln's reference to the "sons-in-law"
being temporarily settled elsewhere.
All were squatters. The land on which the Lincoln Cabin
was erected was not entered from the government until
May 31, 1836, by Perry Strickland, 6 five years after Thomas
Lincoln had moved from Macon County. All three families
are listed in the federal census taken the summer of 1830
by William Warnick for the county. Total population of the
county was 1,122 of which 638 were less than twenty years of
Under "Heads of Families," Thomas Lincoln is shown
as having a family of four, with two males between twenty
and thirty; one male between forty and fifty, and one female
between forty and fifty. Abraham Lincoln was one of the
males between twenty and thirty and, presumably, the other
was John D. Johnston, which would be an error as he was
only fifteen that year. Also, Thomas Lincoln's age listed as
between forty and fifty is incorrect, as he was fifty-two. 7
Dennis Hanks boasted in 1865 that after Abe hauled in
the logs for the Lincoln Cabin, he (Dennis Hanks) "hewed
them all," and that he helped John Hanks and Abe split
rails to enclose about ten acres of land which were broken
that summer of 1830. 8 Rails to fence in the sod corn were
honey locust and walnut. Abe was an expert with the ax and
maul despite Henry Clay Whitney's doubts about Lincoln's
ever having split many rails.
The rails split to surround the corn patch were "far
from being the first or only rails ever made by Abraham," 9
said Lincoln in his own story of his life. He had learned the
art in the Indiana woods 10 and demonstrated it in Illinois
when he and John Hanks split more than three thousand
rails for William Warnick, sheriff of Macon County, who
lived across the river two and a half miles southeast of the
Lincoln split rails that fall, with George Close as a part-
ner, for James Hanks and William Miller, receiving home-
Getting Acquainted 21
spun clothing as his pay. 11 Lincoln's agreement with Mrs.
Miller, who was a sister of John Hanks, was that he receive
one yard of homespun brown jeans "richly dyed with walnut
bark" for every four hundred rails made until he should have
enough cloth for a pair of trousers. Lincoln needed consid-
erable jeans to cover his long legs and it seems likely that he
had to split more than one thousand rails, but he needed the
trousers. The title, "Rail Splitter," bestowed later, was not a
misnomer or just another campaign slogan.
With the home plot fenced, Lincoln started out to find
work. The Warnick farm must have been one of the first
places at which he was employed, as he helped break prairie
that summer, helped with the harvest in the fall, and the
next winter split rails for the sheriff. The Warnick farm lay
along the Paris to Springfield road, across the road from the
later famous Huddleston home, built in 1833, 12 which became
known as the "Seven Mile" and "Thirty-three Mile" tavern,
since it was seven miles from Decatur and thirty-three miles
from Springfield. Lincoln may have stopped there years later
while riding the circuit.
Lincoln's stay at the Warnick farm was not without its
incidents other than farm work. Robert Warnick, son of the
sheriff, was eight years old the summer Lincoln worked there,
and before Robert died in 1914 he often told of an incident
at harvest time. Perhaps older members of the family pro-
vided the details later but he remembered the affair as a tussle
between Lincoln and another farm hand. 13
Grain was cut with reaphooks. Lincoln was long-armed
and strong and could hold his own with the best of the
reapers. After one round, Jim Herrod was sent for a pail of
fresh water. Jim Owens, a big, strong farm laborer, chal-
lenged Lincoln to a wrestling bout. Sheriff Warnick gave his
consent on condition that neither man become angry. (Both
Owens and Lincoln were known as good wrestlers.) Lincoln
threw Owens and was holding him down when Jim Herrod
returned with the pail of water. Herrod remarked: "I always
have heard that when two dogs get to fighting the best way
22 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
to separate them is to throw cold water on them." Where-
upon he emptied the pail of water on the two men. That
ended the match. At the end of the day, said Warnick, Lin-
coln made a political talk.
The sheriff had an attractive daughter, Mary. The friend-
ship of Abe Lincoln and Mary Warnick is no fable but it
seems likely it may have been given more meaning by some
writers than actually existed. Joseph Stevens, the man Mary
married three months after Lincoln arrived in the neighbor-
hood, boasted he had won the girl from Lincoln. Lincoln
probably did not go to the Warnick farm before April, since
he did not arrive until the middle of March and there were
the cabin and barn to erect at his father's place. It would not
have been unusual for young Abe to have been attracted by
the daughter of the sheriff of the county but she must have
been looking forward to her wedding on June 17 to Joseph
Stevens at the time. It is probable that Mary invited Abe to
Among other girls in the neighborhood, Lincoln gave
some attention to Miss Jemina Hill, 14 in the fall of 1830,
when there was a singing and spelling school in a log school-
house on the old Springfield road near the present Bethlehem
church neighborhood. It was not out of the way to the Lin-
coln or the Warnick home to see Miss Hill to her home. 15
Miss Hill was not married until five years after Lincoln left
That winter Lincoln spent three weeks in the Warnick
home with frosted feet. To reach the Warnick place Abe
had to cross the Sangamon River. On one of those daily trips
he broke through the river ice. Instead of returning to his own
home he continued on to the Warnicks. His feet were badly
frosted and Mrs. Warnick used all the home remedies they
were accustomed to using in those days to take out the frost-
bite. Lincoln made good use of his time there by reading
the sheriff's copy of the Illinois Statutes.
Lincoln did not work exclusively on the Warnick farm.
He had four yoke of oxen and he broke thirty acres "for my
Getting Acquainted 23
brother," said John Hanks, as well as breaking prairie for
others. Two yoke of oxen belonged to Thomas Lincoln, ac-
cording to Hanks, and "two to my brother." 16 The brother,
Charles Hanks, had a farm in Harristown township. In a
letter to John Hanks in August, 1860, Lincoln said: "The
year I passed in Macon County I was with him a good deal
— mostly on his own place, when I helped him at breaking
prarie [sic] with a joint team of his and ours, which in turn,
broke some on the new place we were improving—" 17
Another of John Hanks's brothers, William Hanks, Jr.,
owned a farm which is now part of Decatur. He entered
eighty acres from the government on March 21, 1829, the
land being from Union Street west to Monroe Street, and
from Wood Street north to the Wabash railroad. 18 He built
a two-room log cabin at what is now 452 West Main Street.
When Icabod Baldwin bought the West Main Street prop-
erty in 1861 the cabin was still there. It was built with hewn
walnut logs, some of which were used in the house now on the
Lincoln made the William Hanks's cabin his stopping
place when he came into the village and, according to Lincoln
legends, he could be seen there in the summertime, propped
against a tree, reading a book.
Lincoln was not unknown in the village, for in June or
July, 1830, he was called upon to make a speech at a political
gathering that was considered important enough to be in-
cluded in William D. Howells' 1860 campaign biography of
Lincoln. In the copy of that biography, which Lincoln per-
sonally corrected, he changed nothing in the report of the
speech as related by Howells:
"General W. L. D. Ewing, and a politician named Posey,
who afterward achieved notoriety in the Black Hawk war,
had addressed the freemen of Macon the year previous, 'on
the issues of the day.' Mr. Posey had, however, in violation
of venerable precedent and sacred etiquette, failed to invite
the sovereigns to drink something. They were justly indig-
nant, and persuaded Lincoln to reply, in the expectation
24 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
that he would possibly make himself offensive to Posey.
Lincoln, however, took the stump with characteristic mod-
esty, and begging his friends not to laugh if he broke down,
treated very courteously the two speakers who had preceded
him, discussed questions of Politics, and in his peroration
eloquently pictured the future of Illinois. There was sense
and reason in his arguments, and his imaginative flight
tickled the State pride of the Illinoians. It was declared that
Lincoln had made the best speech of the day; and he, to his
great astonishment, found himself a prophet among those of
his own household, while his titled fellow-orator cordially
complimented his performance." 19
John Hanks was there and gave this version:
"After Abe got to Decatur, or rather to Macon County,
a man by the name of Posey came into our neighborhood and
made a speech. It was a bad one, and I said Abe could beat
it. I turned down a box and Abe made his speech. The other
was a candidate — Abe wasn't. Abe beat him to death, his
subject being the navigation of the Sangamon River. The
man, after Abe's speech was through, took him aside and
asked him where he had learned so much and how he could
do so well. Abe replied, stating his manner and method of
reading, and what he had read. The man encouraged him to
William Lee D. Ewing and John F. Posey of Fayette
County were two of the ten candidates seeking election as
state representatives to the Illinois Legislature from the dis-
trict composed of Bond, Fayette, Montgomery, Tazewell, and
Macon Counties. Ewing and Posey were elected August 2>
1830 — Posey receiving fifty-four votes, and Ewing eighty-
six, in Decatur.
When L. F. Muzzy, a Decatur city alderman, proposed in
1886 that the "old square" be called Lincoln Square, Captain
Joel S. Post approved, saying Abe Lincoln had made a speech
in North Main Street only a few feet from the square. Lin-
coln and some other young men had come to hear the Ewing
and Posey speeches, Post related, and after the politicians
Getting Acquainted 25
had spoken, the crowd insisted that Lincoln talk, choosing
his own subject. Captain Post said the subject was "The
Propriety of having Slack Water in Navigation, or Improve-
ment of the Sangamon River." 21
Captain Post did not come to Decatur until 1839, nine
years after the speech was made, and if that was the correct
subject of the speech he must have obtained his information
from others. It would have been possible for him to have
learned of it directly from Lincoln, as Post started practicing
law in Decatur in 1841, continued until 1846, and then re-
sumed after the Mexican War. Not only did he meet Lincoln
in the courtroom in Decatur, but he was associated with him
in a number of cases and frequently was with him on the
Lincoln perhaps had made other speeches in Decatur be-
fore this one, for the crowd evidently knew he could talk to
audiences. Probably he would not have been urged to speak
at the same meeting with Ewing and Posey unless his friends
knew he could make a good showing.
When Edwin T. Coleman wrote his History of Decatur
in 1929 for The Decatur Review, he included an account of
a Lincoln speech at a time when a General Whiteside was in
the village making a political roundup. Coleman said the
speech was made in front of Isaac C. Pugh's store on West
Main Street. Although Pugh came to Macon County in 1829,
his store in West Main Street was not licensed until April 2,
1831, after Lincoln left Macon County.
According to the legend repeated by Coleman, after
Whiteside had spoken, some of the younger members of
the crowd called for Lincoln. Lincoln spoke on the naviga-
tion of the Sangamon, after which Whiteside is reported to
have said to Pugh:
"Who is that young fellow?"
"His name is Abe Lincoln, but outside of that I don't
know anything about him," replied Pugh.
"He's nobody's d--d fool and some of these days that
fellow is going to be heard of." 22
26 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
This obviously is another version of the Sangamon navi-
gation speech made at the time of the Ewing-Posey visit.
Election records do not show any man by the name of White-
side as a candidate for office in or from Macon County at
that time. There was a James A. Whiteside elected in 1830
to represent Pope County in the State Legislature and a
John D. Whiteside was elected the same year to represent
Monroe County. One of these two men may have been in
Decatur in the interest of one of the candidates for governor
that year but it seems doubtful.
The Lincoln speech for the Ewing-Posey audience prob-
ably was given in front of the Renshaw store on North Main
Street just off the old square. The tavern was located there
and the loafing was done nearby. Legend has it that cards
were played on a log in front of the store. Since the election
was on August 2, 1830, the speech probably was made in
June or July.
Posey may have been impressed by the Lincoln speech as
was Mr. Ewing, for in January, 1831, Representative Posey
introduced a resolution in the Legislature "that the commit-
tee on internal improvements be instructed to inquire into-
the expediency of opening the navigation of the Sangamon
River as far as Decatur in Macon County." 23
The First Year
"After the shake, then came the fever. . . ."
- John W. Smith, History of Macon County
Lincoln probably walked the eight miles from the Lincoln
home to the village of Decatur as often as he rode horseback.
What buying the Lincolns did was at the Renshaw general
store. For mail they made inquiry of Postmaster Daniel Mc-
Call at the post office in a cabin on the present site of the
St. Nicholas hotel on the southwest corner of Lincoln Square.
Twenty-six years later Lincoln was to sit in a hotel building
on the same site conferring with Anti-Nebraska editors of
the state in the formation of a political organization that
would develop into the Republican Party of Illinois.
The small amount of mail for the village came from
Shelbyville once a week. Ten years later it was said that the
postmaster still could carry the "post office" around in his
hat. No wonder McCall could also serve as probate judge,
circuit clerk, and county clerk while he was postmaster. And
in the fall of 1830 he also had time to help take the federal
census of the county although it was Sheriff William War-
nick who signed the official tabulation. McCall had no court-
house in which to perform the few duties of his various offices
but one was being constructed.
The courthouse had been started the previous year on
the west side of the square and the Lincoln caravan had
stopped in front of it in March. The county had little money
to build any kind of a structure as the total taxes for 1829
28 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
amounted only to $109,321/4- But a county seat had to have
a courthouse and the county commissioners' court stipulated
that it should be completed by November 1, 1832.
Lincoln must have inspected the structure inasmuch as
his cousin, John Hanks, was doing the chinking and daubing
for which he was allowed $9,871/4 in December, 1830. It was
a building 18 by 24 feet in size, with a 7 foot ceiling and
garret room above. The roof was of clapboard and at one
end was a fireplace. The floor was of puncheon (split logs).
Planks laid on pins fixed into the wall served as desks. Plain
wooden benches provided the seating for public meetings,
church services, and court business. There were no county
offices in the building, which cost about $200.
As Lincoln looked about he probably did not realize that
eight years later he would be back as a lawyer to transact
business in the structure, barely a month before it was to be
abandoned in favor of a new brick building. The old build-
ing, known as the Lincoln Courthouse, the only remaining
link with the early years of Decatur, now stands in Fairview
The first term of Circuit Court in the county opened on
May 8, 1830. Although the writs issued in the cases to be
heard were returnable at James Ward's home, there is no
record that the court was held there. It is possible the first
court was held in the unfinished courthouse and it is likely
Abe Lincoln was there as he was showing deep interest in
law and, in addition, there was a case involving his cousin,
Judge Samuel D. Lockwood, a member of the Illinois
Supreme Court, presided and found four cases on his docket:
Thomas Cowan vs. Wm. King, appeal; John Hanks vs. John
Henderson, slander; Wm. Webb vs. Hubbell Sprague, slan-
der; Wm. Webb vs. Phillip D. Williams, appeal. Court was
not in session long. Hanks's slander case was dismissed with
Hanks paying the costs. The second slander case also was
dismissed with the defendant paying the costs, while the two
appeal cases likewise were dismissed.
The First Year 29
The second term of court was not until May, 1931, after
Lincoln had left Macon County. Among the lawyers present
from Springfield at that session was John T. Stuart, 1 who
was to be Lincoln's first law partner.
After the first court session the onlookers probably walked
north through the square to James Renshaw's general store
and tavern to do their shopping and loafing. Renshaw had
applied for a license to operate a tavern in June, 1829, for
which he paid $4.00, the county commissioners fixing the
following tavern rates:
For breakfast and horsefeed, 37 1/ 2 cents.
For keeping man and horse each night (the man to have
supper and lodging), 621/4 cents.
Dinner and horsefeed, 37i/£ cents.
Brandy, rum, gin, wine or cordial, 25 cents.
Whisky or cider, 121/2 cents per half pint.
The first entry in the Renshaw "daybook" made Decem-
ber 10, 1829 (probably the day the store opened), gives
credit to William Hanks for 104 pounds of fresh-killed pork
at a cent and a half a pound, to be taken out in trade. Even
though a big portion of the Renshaw business was barter,
he prospered. The names of Lincoln, Hanks, and Levi Hall
appear among the customers, and of particular interest are
the purchases charged to Thomas Lincoln.
The Lincoln family in coming to Macon County fared
no better than other settlers in escaping that body-racking^
affliction variously called the "ague," "chills and fever," and
"Illinois Shakes." Everyone had it. The undrained prairies
and lowlands with their swarms of mosquitoes were the cause.
By late summer it hit the Lincoln family. 2 On August 16,
1830, one-fourth pound of "barks" costing $1.00 was charged
to Thomas Lincoln — barks being a "Peruvian bark and
whisky tonic" used by all for ague.
The purchase was made "by son," either Abraham Lin-
coln or John D. Johnston, Abe's stepbrother. On August 28,
1830, there was another charge to Thomas Lincoln for one
ounce of barks, this purchase "By Jonson," a misspelling of
30 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
Johnston. The first quarter pound of barks had not lasted
long and another ounce was needed in twelve days. Someone
in the Lincoln family had "the shakes."
Whole families sometimes were sick at once, said John
W. Smith in his 1878 history of Macon County. The ague
"operated in retarding the rapid settlement of the country,"
he declared. Smith himself was a victim. Although he writes
about it in a humorous vein, he says his description "is no
picture of imagination.
"In the fall season of the year, like Brady's bitters, every-
body took it," he wrote. "It was no respecter of persons;
everybody shook with it, and it was in everybody's system.
They all looked pale and yellow, as though they were frost-
bitten. It was not contagious, but was a kind of miasma that
floated around the atmosphere and was absorbed in the sys-
tem. It kept on absorbing and accumulating from day to day,
until the whole body corporate became charged with it as
with electricity, and then the shock came; and the shock was
a regular shake, with a fixed beginning and ending, coming
on each day, or each alternate day, with a regularity that was
"After the shake, then came the fever, and this 'last estate
was worse than the first.' It was a burning hot fever, and
one that lasted for hours. When you had a chill you couldn't
get warm, and when you had the fever, you couldn't get cool.
It was awkward in this respect. It was indeed. It would not
stop, either, for any sort of contingency. Not even a wedding
in the family would stop it. It was imperative and exacting.
When the appointed hour came around, everything else had
to be stopped to attend to its demands. It didn't have any
Sundays or holidays.
"After the fever went down, you didn't feel much better.
You felt as though you had gone through some sort of a
collision, and come out not killed, but badly demoralized.
You felt weak, as though you had run too far after something,
and then didn't catch it. You felt languid, stupid and sore,
and was down in the mouth and heel and partially raveled
out, so to speak. Your back was out of fix, and your appetite
The First Year 31
was in a worse fix than that. Your eyes had more white in
them than usual, and altogether, you felt poor, disconsolate
and sad. You didn't think much of suicide, but at the same
time you almost made up your mind that under certain cir-
cumstances it was justifiable.
"You imagined that even the dogs looked at you with a
kind of self-complacency. You thought the sun had a kind of
sickly shine about it. About this time you came to the con-
clusion that you would not take the whole State of Illinois
as a gift, and picked up Hannah and the baby and your traps,
and went back 'yander' to Injeany, Ohio or old Kaintuck."*
It was not a pleasant welcome to the Lincolns. One of
the reasons they left Indiana was to get away from the "milk-
sick." Here they found malaria or ague. But that was by no
means all that 1830 meant to the Lincoln family and all
others in Central Illinois. The winter of 1830-1831 is famous
as "the winter of the deep snow."
As winter came on, Lincoln was busy making rails for
Sheriff Warnick, 4 but in mid-December he took time out to
appraise an "estray mare." The records of the county com-
missioners carry this report:
"We the under signers having been called on to appraise
an Estray Mare taken up by Jonathan B. Brown on Monday
the 12th day of Dec. 1830; Do find horse to be four years
old next Spring a bright bay 14 hands high — a Small blase
and a Snip in her face — right hind foot white — right fore
foot with a white Stripe down the hough and white hairs
around the edge of the hough no brands preceiveable black
mane and tail appraised to 30 Dollars. Given under hands
this 16th day of December 1830.
John W. Reed"
How much was grown on the little Lincoln farm during
the summer is unknown but Abraham Lincoln said they
"broke ground and raised a crop of sod corn upon it the
same year." 5 The family had wild game meat; turkeys and
deer were plentiful. Because meat could be had merely by
going out and getting it, there was no need for killing more
32 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
than enough for a day or two or a week at the most. The
deep snow, however, kept people indoors and killed much of
the wild game.
Numerous statements have been made that Central Illi-
nois never recovered from the destruction of wild game that
cold winter, but six years later, in September, 1836, a party
of nine hundred Indians was escorted through the Sangamon
River valley past Decatur and found so much game it was
unnecessary for the conductor to issue government rations. 6
Throughout the winter of 1830-31 one snow followed an-
other, often with sleet storms between, producing a crust of
ice upon which the next fall of snow piled higher. There
were many sunless days and as the winter progressed the
cold was intense. People did not go out unless it was neces-
The Lincolns had to have corn. Late in the winter Abe
and John Hanks made their way across the Sangamon River
to a horse mill owned by Robert Smith 7 five and one-half
miles southwest of Decatur.
Smith had succeeded in getting a road opened to his corn
field and with a yoke of oxen hitched to a sled was out
gathering corn exposed above the snow when Lincoln and
Hanks arrived. Smith asked Lincoln if he had to labor under
such conditions on his side of the river, to which Lincoln
"Yes, we have to do worse than that, for we have used up
all of our own corn and now we have to go to our neighbors
for assistance." 8
The ague and the fever of the fall had already discour-
aged the Lincoln family so much that Thomas Lincoln de-
termined to leave the county. 9 Now the deep snow and the
necessity of asking help from neighbors added to the de-
pressed feelings and made Thomas Lincoln more anxious
than ever to leave.
Later in the winter, with snow and ice compact, teams
and vehicles could be driven over high "stake and rider"
fences. Where the snow had not drifted it lay three feet deep
in successive layers of ice and snow. There are no reports
The First Year 33
of anyone starving or freezing but there were hunger and
hardship. In the spring, when the snow melted, the river
and streams were high, low lands were covered with water
and roads were nearly impasable. Difficult travel conditions,
however, did not prevent a Kentuckian named Denton Offutt
from reaching Decatur.
Offutt arrived in February seeking John Hanks, who had
operated flatboats from Kentucky down the Ohio and Mis-
sissippi to New Orleans. Offutt was an enterprising and en-
thusiastic fellow and hoped to make money taking products
out of the developing Illinois country to the South. Later it
developed that Offutt was boastful and impractical but he
had a knack of making friends. 10
As Hanks told about the venture later, Offutt "wanted
me to go badly. I went and saw Abe and John Johnston,
Abe's stepbrother; introduced Offutt to them. We made an
engagement with Offutt at 50 cents per day and $60 to make
the trip to New Orleans." 11
Lincoln, Hanks, and Johnston started down the Sanga-
mon River in a canoe in March, 1831. 12 Lincoln had lived
in Macon County just a year. He was starting out in the
world to make his own way. The trip was made to New
Orleans, but Lincoln and Hanks differ in reports of the
return home from St. Louis. According to Hanks, he, with
Lincoln and Johnston, walked from St. Louis to Edwards-
ville where Hanks left them and went on to Springfield,
while Lincoln and Johnston went to Coles County. 13 Lincoln
said that Hanks went only as far as St. Louis for "having a
family, and being likely to be detained from home longer
than at first expected, and turned back from St. Louis." 14
As to his own action after returning from New Orleans,
Lincoln said his father and family and others had removed
from Macon to Coles County and that "John D. Johnston,
the stepmother's son, went to them, and Abraham stopped
indefinitely, and for the first, as it were, by himself at New
Salem." 15 Lincoln, nevertheless, visited his father's new
place at Goose Neck Prairie in Coles County. 16 He probably
went through Decatur late in July, 1831, 17 on his way to
rejoin Offutt in New Salem.
The Log Cabin
After Thomas Lincoln moved to Coles County, Illinois,
in the spring of 1831, the Lincoln cabin overlooking the
Sangamon River in Macon County was left for anyone who
wished to use it. In 1860 it was used for a schoolhouse for
several weeks after a school district had been divided. 1
In April, 1865, John and Dennis Hanks decided to ex-
hibit the cabin at the Sanitary Fair in Chicago. They, with
Dennis Hanks's son-in-law, James Shoaff, took the cabin
down, numbered each log, and shipped them to Chicago.
The decayed logs were replaced by logs from John Hanks's
own log barn. In Chicago the cabin was set up at Randolph
Street and Wabash Avenue where it was visited by hundreds
from June 1 to 24. As a sideline, John Hanks sold canes
which he said were "made from rails that Lincoln split."
The cabin received thousands of words of publicity from
the time it arrived in Chicago. It had not yet been set up
on May 29 when the Chicago Tribune under a heading, "The
Lincoln Log Cabin," said:
"The identical log cabin, built by Lincoln and John and
Dennis Hanks, in the days of their rail-splitting, about twelve
miles west of Decatur, Macon City, 111., has been brought
to this city for exhibition during the Fair, and will be placed
on the corner of Randolph street and Wabash avenue. It
will be open to inspection tomorrow. The Messrs. Hanks
The Log Cabin 35
will be in attendance and give interesting items of their ex-
perience with Lincoln in the days — 'Auld Lang Syne.' The
following letter of identification from our noble Governor
Oglesby will be read with much interest:
'State of Illinois, Executive Dep't,
Springfield, May 20, 1865
'John Hanks, Esq., Decatur, 111.:
'My Dear Old Friend — In reply to your question relat-
ing to the log cabin, said to have been built by yourself,
Thomas Lincoln and the late President, Abraham Lincoln,
I take pleasure in stating to you that for twenty-five years
there has been no doubt in the public mind in Macon county,
Illinois, on this question. If the cabin you now have is the
one you pointed out to me in the spring of I860, when you
were collecting the Lincoln rails, I cheerfully state that I am
certain it is the one built by Mr. Lincoln; besides your
voluntary statements on the subject abundantly satisfy me
there can be no mistake about it.
'As the old companion and friend of Mr. Lincoln, and
one who has been constant in your support of his admin-
istration, and an adopted friend of the Union, I hope you
may receive a just compensation for your efforts to bring
before the country the simple but honorable testimonies in
the early, laborious and worthy efforts of our beloved Presi-
dent in his youth, to make for himself a home, a fortune
and a name.
'The Log Cabin would be out of place in any other
hands than your own. You should retain control of it, that
its identity may not be lost. There is but one such in the
United States, and it rightfully and properly belongs to you.
' (Signed) Richard J. Oglesby,
Governor of Illinois' " 2
The next day the Fair's own publication, The Voice of
The Fair, told about the cabin and a razor to be exhibited,
saying in part regarding the cabin: "Messrs. Shoaff & Hanks
have certificates from James Whitley, Esq., the gentleman
from whom they purchased it, and also Gov. Oglesby and
36 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
Col. Pugh, stating that it is really the identical Cabin re-
ferred to." 3
On the following day, June 1, the Chicago Tribune
started a long article with the statement that "Abraham
Lincoln's log cabin, which he helped to build with his own
hands, in the days of his youth and poverty, is to us the most
outstanding of all the objects at the Fair." 4 Through The
Voice of The Fair it was announced that John Hanks pro-
posed to donate half of the receipts to the Sanitary Fair
which was being held to raise funds to aid soldiers. On June
8 the Fair's publication printed its last article about the
cabin, saying in part:
"Governor R. J. Oglesby paid his respects to the old
cabin on Monday, and when he entered its enclosure, taking
John Hanks by the hand, exclaimed, 'Well, John, this is cer-
tainly the identical Lincoln cabin. I have been in it many
years ago. My feelings are sad. I realize where I am.'
"After the Fair, we understand, the Messrs. Hanks intend
removing it to New York, where it will be placed on exhi-
bition. From thence it will go to Boston. Those who fail to
visit the cabin will lose one of the best parts of the Sanitary
From Chicago the cabin was shipped to Boston and ex-
hibited on Boston Common from late July, 1865, through
August, after a permit had been granted by the Board of
Alderman. The official record of the permit says:
"At a meeting of the Board of Aldermen of the City of
Boston, held in Mechanics Hall, on Monday, the tenth day
of July, Anno Domini, 1865.
"Agreeably to the reports of the Committee on Licenses
and Common, leave was granted to John Hanks to exhibit
President Lincoln's original log cabin on Boston Common." 6
Several days later a small item under the heading: "The
Original Lincoln Cabin," appeared in The Liberator (Bos-
"The original Lincoln Cabin, which he helped to build
in Macon County, Illinois, in 1830, is to be exhibited on
The Log Cabin 37
Boston Common. The identity of the structure is fully
established. It was exhibited at the recent Sanitary Fair in
Chicago, and was visited by thousands." 7
Among the visitors to the cabin in Boston were the Mar-
quis of Drogheda and his lady. The Boston Advertiser cap-
tioned its story of the event, "The English Nobility in the
Lincoln Log Cabin," saying:
"The Marquis of Drogheda and his lady, who are in the
city, stopping at the Tremont House, paid a visit last evening
to the 'Lincoln Cabin,' which is now on exhibition on the
Common. They spent some time in the examination of this
now sacred relic; and, while purchasing some articles made
from the wood of the cabin, her ladyship remarked: 'I wish
very much to take home these to show our people; for my
husband is one of those in our country who admired Presi-
dent Lincoln's character.'
"On taking their leave the Marquis and his lady shook
hands in a very cordial manner with Uncle John Hanks, who
helped build, and now owns and exhibits the cabin, and said
to him: 'We are very happy indeed to take the hand of the
old friend and companion of Mr. Lincoln.'
"Although persons of high rank and large fortune, they
came and went in a quiet, democratic way, and 'Uncle John'
was not aware, until after their departure, that he had been
entertaining the English nobility in the humble log cabin
which he helped young Abe Lincoln, the rail splitter, build
over thirty-five years ago. But such was the case. The dis-
tinguished visitors, however, honored themselves no less than
the humble cabin by the respect which they paid to our
martyred President's memory." 8
The final word on the Boston showing of the cabin came
in the Boston Advertiser on Aug. 1, 1865, when it said "a
visit to the cabin is time well spent." 9 Business in canes had
been so good that John Hanks wrote home for many of the
rails from which to make them. There is grave doubt that
many of the rails from which the canes were made ever were
split by Abe Lincoln.
38 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
The next word heard about Hanks and his cabin was
from New York City when P. T. Barnum prepared to open
his new museum in the autumn of 1865. The Lincoln Cabin
was to be a feature. Barnum's museum at the corner of
Broadway and Ann Streets was destroyed by fire. While mak-
ing plans for the erection of a new museum, Barnum leased
a building at 539-541 Broadway, built a theater in it and five
exhibition saloons or lecture rooms.
The New York Times generously gave Mr. Barnum a
half-column article about his museum on the morning it was
to open and referred readers to the Barnum advertisement
which was a single half column jammed with type about the
attractions, the name of the theatrical company, and the spe-
cial artists. Admission to the museum and lecture rooms was
thirty cents. No mention was made of the Lincoln Cabin in
that advertisement of September 6, 1865, but by Septem-
ber 18 Barnum had finished a sixth saloon and in this room
was exhibited the Lincoln Cabin along with glass blowers,
giants, a fat woman, and other exhibits. The main portion
of the advertisement referring to the cabin said:
"A sixth saloon has just been added in which is exhibited
the Identical Lincoln Log Cabin built by Abraham Lin-
coln in Macon County, Illinois, in 1830, and in which he
resided for two years.
"Original letters from Gov. R. J. Oglesby of Illinois,
Gov. Andrew of Massachusetts, and other distinguished per-
sonages prove the identity of this historic relic, made sacred
for having been touched by that once powerful but now
motionless hand. The Common Council of Boston granted
the use of the Common for its exhibition. John Hanks of
Illinois, who assisted Mr. Lincoln in its erection, will be in
the cabin to answer all questions." 10
The museum program was changed on October 30 and the
cabin was moved out. Where the cabin went is unknown. No
newspaper reference has been found about its being exhibited
or stored. There are only a few scattered copies of Decatur
newspapers of that period now existing. From the one news-
The Log Cabin 39
paper item found about the movements of John Hanks it
appears the cabin was to have been exhibited in Philadelphia
after New York City. This item in the Decatur State Chron-
icle in early November, 1865, said:
"The Lincoln cabin is now on exhibition in New York,
and will shortly be taken to Philadelphia, after which it is
the purpose of the proprietors to exhibit it in Europe. John
Hanks left for the east yesterday, and will accompany the
cabin to Europe. As the early companion of Mr. Lincoln he
will form an interesting feature of the exhibition." 11
No newspaper reference has been found about the cabin
being exhibited in Philadelphia. And John Hanks never
went to Europe, although Gov. Richard J. Oglesby wrote him
a letter wishing him a safe and pleasant journey and saying
that he hoped Hanks would not fail to return the cabin to
Decatur. An unconfirmed report is that the cabin was sold
to an Englishman and was lost in transit to England.
The disappearance of the Macon County Lincoln home
is similar to that of his home in Spencer County, Indiana. It
is not definitely known what happened to the Indiana cabin
but it supposedly was shipped to Cincinnati, Ohio, and the
logs made into relics. 12
The land on which the Lincoln Cabin was built in Macon
County was entered from the government by Perry Strick-
land, May 31, 1836, and sold by him in 1843 to James Whit-
ley and his brother, Shelton G. Whitley. The tract is half
of Section 28 in Harristown Township. When James Whitley
died in 1872, a son, Richard, sold his half section to Thomas
J. Scroggin. It was on this portion of the land that the Lincoln
Cabin had been located.
The Whitley family moved to Missouri and after a few
years returned to Decatur. James Whitley, a son of Richard,
bought back the land his father had sold. Eventually the
State of Illinois purchased sixty acres containing the cabin
site, and a 200-foot parkway now connects the site with Fed-
eral Route 36 west of Decatur. No home ever has been on
the ground since the Lincoln Cabin was removed.
Always a Whig
"Always a Whig in politics. . . ."
— Abraham Lincoln
Autobiography to Jesse W. Fell
Abraham Lincoln did not vote in the August 2, 1830 elec-
tion in Macon County since he met only two of the three re-
quirements of a qualified voter. He had "attained the age of
21" and he had "not voted in this election" but he had not
lived in the state six months.
Although he did not vote he did get on the record il-
legally, in the changing of a voting precinct. When a number
of voters wanted to change the location of a voting place
they took around a petition addressed to the county com-
missioners and secured signatures, the petition reading:
"We the undersigned qualified voters in Decatur Precinct
earnestly request your honors to change the present place of
holding Elections in said precinct from Parmenius Small-
wood's to the Court House in Decatur."
The petition was dated May 26, 1830. "Honest Abe"
probably never noticed the words qualified voters, and with a
big scrawl signed his name, "A. Lincoln," after that of
John D. Johnston, Lincoln's half brother, also an unqualified
voter. Lincoln's name was the forty-fifth and last on the list.
The county commissioners evidently were not particular
about the signers and the petition was granted on June 7,
1830. 1 The state law permitted county commissioners to
change a voting place at any time "upon the petition of a
majority of voters residing within the precint." The petition
Lincoln signed had a bare majority.
Always A Whig 41
Macon County in 1830 was Demoratic as was the state as
a whole. The county remained that way throughout Lincoln's
political life, despite the numerous speeches he made in
Decatur as a Whig presidential elector or as a candidate for
the Senate. Macon County never had a representative in the
State Legislature or in Congress of the same party affiliation
as Lincoln while he was a member of those two legislative
In the presidential election of 1832, Macon County cast
173 votes for Andrew Jackson, Democrat, and only 41 votes
for the Whig candidate, Henry Clay. 2 Twelve years later, in
1844, the county honored a local Whig, George Powers, by
giving him more votes for state senator than were given the
Democratic candidate. Otherwise the county remained con-
sistently Democratic for many years, including Lincoln's first
election to the presidency.
Lincoln left Decatur in the spring of 1831. In the sum-
mer of 1832, he returned to New Salem from the Black Hawk
War, and sought election to the Illinois General Assembly
from Sangamon County. He was defeated. In submitting his
candidacy he continued to advocate the improvement of the
Sagamon River as he had done in his speech when Ewing
and Posey were in Decatur in 1830. A railroad had been
proposed to run from the Illinois River through Jacksonville
to Springfield and in his bid for election, Lincoln said:
"The probable cost of this contemplated railroad is esti-
mated at $290,000; the bare statement of which, in my opin-
ion, is sufficient to justify the belief that the improvement
of the Sangamon River is an object much better suited to
our infant resources." 3
In 1834 Lincoln again was a candidate for the Legislature
from Sangamon County and this time was successful, as he
was in three succeeding elections. In 1834, Thomas B.
Trower of Macon County was elected to the Ninth General
Assembly to serve in the House with Lincoln. In 1836, Wil-
liam G. Reddick of Decatur was elected and in that year
Lincoln was chosen by Whig members to direct party poli-
42 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
tics, the House consisting of twenty-seven Whigs and sixty-
four Democrats. 4 In 1838, Reddick, a Democrat, was re-
turned to the General Assembly but died soon after the elec-
tion and in a special election Jesse Wilson Gouge of Macon
County was elected.
By this time Macon County had become reacquainted
with Abraham Lincoln. He had completed requirements on
March 1, 1837, to practice law, and in May, 1838, came to
Decatur, now a town of three hundred, for the first time as
In 1840 when Lincoln was re-elected from Sangamon
County for what was to be, by his own choice, his final term
in the Legislature, Robert F. Barnett of Macon County was
elected to the General Assembly. Lincoln was not only a
candidate for the Legislature but, as a member of the Whig
State Central Committee, had the practical management of
the Whig forces in the state in the campaign to elect William
H. Harrison to the presidency. 5
As presidential elector and an active campaigner, Lincoln
undoubtedly was in Decatur on political as well as law busi-
ness. Macon County cast 627 votes — 377 going to Martin
Van Buren (Democrat) and 250 to Harrison (Whig). In the
Legislature, Lincoln was the minority leader and the Whig
candidate for Speaker of the House, which had forty Whigs
and fifty-one Democrats as members. W. L. D. Ewing received
forty-six votes, and Lincoln received thirty-six. Lincoln was
contesting with the man he had met in Decatur in the sum-
mer of 1830 when Lincoln, as a farm hand, had made a
speech in front of the Renshaw store.
Lincoln was again a Whig presidential elector in 1844
and active in the campaign. A Whig mass meeting was called
for October 9 in Decatur, featuring a public barbecue and
the erection of an "ash pole" in honor of Henry Clay. 6 The
speakers for the day were to be Stephen T. Logan and Abra-
ham Lincoln of Springfield, and David Davis of Bloomington.
The call had been signed by Henry Sheppard, chairman;
George A. Smith, J. H. Triplett, Preston Butler, Benjamin
Always A Whig 43
Dillehunt, Luther Stevens, Anson Packard, W. Sanders, W. J.
McCondell, James Renshaw, Edmund McClellan, Charles H.
Pringle, W. Renshaw, and Benjamin F. Oglesby. There was
no published report later to show whether Lincoln was pres-
ent but he probably filled the engagement as announced. In
the election that year Macon County gaves James K. Polk
(Democrat) 328 votes and Henry Clay (Whig) 221 votes for
President. This was the year in which Macon County gave
George Powers (Whig) 301 votes as compared with 277 for
Samuel G. Nesbitt (Democrat) in the state senatorial elec-
In 1846 when Lincoln was a successful candidate for rep-
resentative in Congress from the seventh congressional dis-
trict, Macon County was in the third congressional district,
composed of eighteen counties. The district cast 11,757
votes, with Orlando B. Ficklin (Democrat of Coles County,
who went to Congress with Lincoln) defeating Robert K.
McLaughlin, an independent, 6,707 to 5,014. Macon County
gave Ficklin 281 votes and McLaughlin, 155.
"Nor is it adequate to refer to Lincoln as a country lawyer.
In the forties and fifties he was one of the outstanding lawyers
of Illinois at a time when Illinois was a populous and flour-
ishing state, well supplied by able lawyers."
- J. G. Randall
Seven years after young Abe Lincoln set forth from Macon
County in a canoe on the swollen Sangamon River in March,
1831, to work for Denton Offutt, he returned to Decatur. He
was not the rail-splitting, oxen-driving farm hand the loafers
about the Renshaw store and log courthouse had known
when the lanky Lincoln came into town during the summer
of 1830. It was as a lawyer that he returned.
Lincoln had been issued on September 9, 1836, a license
to practice law but he did not complete full requirements
until March 1, 1837, when his name was enrolled as an at-
torney. 1 He had been taken in as a partner by John T. Stuart
of Springfield in April, 1837, 2 becoming a member of one of
the leading law firms in Springfield. 3 Lincoln was busy that
year in the State Legislature from January through March
and again in July, in addition to handling law business in
In the spring of 1838 he started attending court in the
First Judicial Circuit composed of Macon, Livingston, Mc-
Lean, Tazewell, Sangamon, Cass, Morgan, Calhoun, Greene,
and Macoupin counties. Available records indicate Decatur
probably was the third city that he visited on that circuit. 5
How he traveled that first year is just a guess but it probably
was by horseback since most of the lawyers traveled across
country that way.
Lawyer Lincoln 45
"After a few years," said George P. Davis, son of David
Davis, "my father, who was a circuit judge, and Mr. Lincoln
were able to afford a buggy." 6 Riding horseback was the
surest way of getting over the miserable roads, which were
often nearly impassable.
In the middle of May, 1838, Decatur was in all the lush-
ness of spring. Ox-teams were at work in the fields and as
Lincoln neared the village, which he remembered as having
a dozen or two log cabins, a combination tavern and store,
and a small log courthouse, he must have noted how the
town was spreading out. Renshaw's store, which was doing
about $10 worth of business a day back in the summer of
1830, was now doing business at the rate of $500 a month, of
which $100 was in cash. Across the square was Cantrill's gen-
eral merchandise store, and on South Main Street was an-
other new store in a brick building.
Harrell's tavern, in what is now Central Block, was the
popular inn. The county had a population of more than 3,000
with nearly 300 living in Decatur. Just two years before,
Decatur had ceased to be a village and had become a town,
electing its first board of trustees.
What must have caught Lincoln's eye and pleased him
most was the new brick courthouse in the southeast corner of
the old square. Here Lincoln was to handle many cases and
speak often at political gatherings during the next twenty-two
years. But it was not ready for use on this first visit of lawyer
The old log courthouse was still standing but it had
served its purpose and was to be abandoned in a few days.
The leading citizens had said two years before that the build-
ing with its plank side-wall desks, rough benches, and no
offices, was not a credit to the growing village. What Decatur
needed, they argued, was a building of brick that would show
the progress of the town and would be a suitable place in
which to conduct the business of the county.
The county commissioners agreed and in January, 1837,
named a commission to make arrangements for such a court-
46 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
house. By March the contract had been let to Leander Mun-
sell who was to erect a two-story structure of brick to cost
$10,625 and be finished in eighteen months. It was to be 40
feet square and 32 feet high with a cupola to house a bell
weighing 120 pounds, and a lightning rod was to adorn its
There was the courthouse "in" the square, set back ten
feet from the projected lines of South Main and East Main
Streets. There were four rooms on the first floor — one in
each corner for county offices — and on the second floor was
the courtroom with two smaller rooms, one a jury room and
the other the sheriff's office. The courtroom had a partitioned
space for the lawyers and benches for the public. It was an
elegant structure for an eight-year-old county.
This was the building Lincoln saw in May, 1838, as he
rode into town. It stood out in sharp contrast with the lowly
log structure on the west side of the square in front of which
the Lincoln-Hanks-Hall families had stopped that March day
in 1830. But the May term of court was being conducted in
the old building with Jesse B. Thomas presiding as judge. 7
Lincoln's first court business in Decatur was on May 14,
1838, when he wrote a bond for costs in the case of Little
Berry Noe vs. James Cunningham. 8 It appears that Noe had a
bill against Cunningham for thirty-seven head of hogs, a bay
mare, washing and lodging, and some other items. The case
first came up on October 3, 1837, with Stuart and Emerson,
lawyers for the plaintiff, and Davis and Baker for the de-
fendant. Now Lincoln was Stuart's law partner and he was
in Decatur looking after their cases.
That evening Lincoln went out in a big wagon to the
John Hanks home. Hanks had driven in that morning with
his wife and Mrs. Willis Johnson since Hanks was to serve
on the jury. Hanks had to remain with the jury overnight. 9
"There were two things I remember especially about the
visit of Lincoln," Mrs. Johnson said in 1909, "that he ate a
hearty supper and the splendid clothes that he wore. He had
venison for supper that night. That was common at that time
Lawyer Lincoln 47
for when Johnny Hanks wanted fresh meat he went to the
woods with his rifle and either shot a deer or a wild turkey,
maybe both. Lincoln evidently was fond of venison for he
"His clothes were made of blue mixed Kentucky jeans,
pants, coat and vest, and there was a leather strap fastened
under his instep to hold his trousers down. The clothes were
tight-fitting but at the time it seemed to me that his suit was
the most handsome thing in men's clothing that I had ever
seen. I could not say positively, but to the best of my recol-
lection, at that time Lincoln did not wear a beard.
"I remember too, that on the way to town next morning
we passed the site of the old school house which had been
burned, maliciously, we believed at that time. Lincoln com-
mented on the burning of a house and when I told him that
it had been a school house and that all our books had been
burned, he said that it was a shame that any one would set fire
to a school house when school houses were so few and were
so badly needed as they were here at that time.
"I don't remember who hitched the team to the wagon
the next morning but after breakfast Mrs. Hanks told me to
get into the wagon and we would take 'that lawyer' back to
town. There were no seats for the wagons in those days. We
put chairs in for seats. Each of us had a split-bottom chair.
Lincoln sat in front and drove the team. When we crossed
Stevens Creek there was quite a chug into the stream and he
did not make any attempt to hold back the team or to brace
himself against the fall of the front wheels and he came near
to pitching headlong out of the front of the wagon. Mrs.
Hanks made fun of him for not being able to drive better
than that." 10
In that day's session of the court Lincoln was appointed
guardian ad litem of the infant heirs of John Lowry and on
June 5, twenty days later, Lincoln's answer to a petition to
dispose of real estate in the case was filed. This answer is one
of the historic documents of Macon County:
"The answer of Abraham Lincoln, guardian ad litem of
48 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
the infant heirs of John Lowry, deceased, to a petition filed
in the Macon Circuit Court by John Lowry, Administrator
for the estate of the said John Lowry, deceased, praying for
a sale of the real estate of the said deceased.
"This respondent for answer to the above named petition
states that he knows of no good reason consistent with the in-
terests of the said infant heirs why the prayer and petition
should not be granted.
A. Lincoln, Guardian ad litem." 11
A month after Lincoln had concluded his cases in the old
courthouse, Leander Munsell, contractor for the new court-
house, turned it over to the commissioners' court, which ex-
amined and accepted it, and on the same day named Henry
H. Gorin agent to rent the log courthouse.
A large portion of Lincoln's business concerned guardian-
ships, notes, slander, and the ordinary run of civil cases.
Court met twice a year but after appearing in the Macon
County court from 1838 through 1840, Lincoln's name is
missing from the records for nine years and reappears next in
June, 1850, and thereafter in cases through 1858. Lincoln
was in Decatur for the spring term of court in 1859 but no
case carries his name.
Lincoln had begun his court practice in the First Judicial
District but the creation of many new counties made it neces-
sary to divide the district and on March 2, 1839, the eighth
judicial district was created consisting of Macon, DeWitt,
McLean, Livingston, Tazewell, Menard, Logan, Sangamon,
and Dane (Christian) counties.
In June, 1839, Lincoln was an attorney in one of the
most interesting cases, although probably not the most im-
portant, of his career as a lawyer in the Macon County Cir-
cuit Court. David Adkins was suing Robert Hines for slan-
der, the case being one of six 12 in which Adkins was involved
then or later, all of which were apparently connected in some
Various court papers filed in the cases show (1) a charge
that Adkins stole hogs from George Deeds and David States-
Lawyer Lincoln 49
man in March, 1838; (2) a charge that Adkins stole hogs
from John G. Deeds in September, 1838; (3) a slander suit
by Adkins against Robert Hines; (4) a slander suit by Adkins
against Levi Meisenhelter; (5) a suit charging that Adkins
and Meisenhelter had a pre-arranged "affray" or "fight by
agreement"; and (6) a slander suit by Adkins against George
Lincoln was involved in at least three of the cases but the
most important was the Adkins vs. Hines slander case, as in
this case there was an array of legal talent such as Central
Illinois had seldom, if ever, seen. It all started with the charge
that Adkins "did feloniously steal, take and carry away cer-
tain goods and chattels, towit, five pigs and five hogs of one
George D. Deeds, of great value, towit, of the value of fifty
dollars," also five pigs and five hogs worth $50 from David
Stutesman on the same day. 13 Later Adkins was accused of
stealing hogs in September, 1838, from John G. Deeds.
The Adkins cases became complicated when, on Novem-
ber 19, 1838, William Webb appeared before Charles Emer-
son, justice of the peace, and charged that "David Adkins and
Levi Meisenhelter did on the 17th day of November, 1838,
between the hours of 4 and 6 p.m. fight by agreement in a
public place to the terror of the citizens." Whether the "af-
fray" was a fight with fists or other weapons is not mentioned.
Four days later, on November 23, the case of "People vs.
David Adkins" arising out of the "affray" was tried in Emer-
son's Justice of the Peace Court with Shelton G. Whitley,
George W. Querrey, Luther Stevens, James F. Montgomery,
Landy Harrell, and Jesse W. Gouge as a jury. Adkins was
acquitted but William Webb, who had filed the complaint,
appealed to the Circuit Court and George R. White gave
bond to cover costs.
Justice Emerson was directed to send all papers in the
case to the Circuit Court and Adkins was summoned to ap-
pear on the first day of the next term.
While William Webb was charging in the Justice Court
that Adkins had staged a fight, Adkins made affidavit before
50 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
Henry M. Gorin, circuit clerk, that he was going to bring
suit for $2,000 damages for slander against Robert Hines who
"did on Nov. 17, 1838, speak words false and malicious. . . ."
Adkins had Hines put under bail of $1,000 for which George
Deeds went security.
Kirby Benedict, one of Decatur's most prominent lawyers,
who later became Chief Justice of New Mexico Territory,
wrote the declaration in the Adkins-Hines slander case,
charging that on November 17, 1838, Hines had used strong
language repeatedly to Adkins in charging that he had stolen
Called to assist in the case in behalf of Adkins was an-
other man who was to become famous throughout the coun-
try — Stephen A. Douglas. For Hines there were Lincoln;
Lincoln's partner, John T. Stuart; and a local lawyer, Charles
Emerson, later to be a circuit judge presiding over courts in
which Lincoln practiced.
It was an array of talent worthy of a case of great im-
portance in a high court. Lincoln was a legislator and had
practiced law for two years. His partner, Stuart, was congress-
man-elect, having defeated Douglas the previous August by
36 votes out of a total of 36,495. Lincoln, Stuart, and Douglas
lived in Springfield; Benedict and Emerson, in Decatur.
The country folk knew all about the affair although there
were no newspapers to carry the news. They had heard about
the "affray" and the trials in the justice courts. For months
there was talk about the "Adkins affair." The people knew
the cases would be tried in the brick courthouse and that
some prominent lawyers, including a former Macon County
resident, Abe Lincoln, would be among them. In addition,
there were a number of other cases to be heard. It would be
an opportunity to see the lawyers of Central Illinois, who
traveled the court circuit, as well as to hear how Dave Adkins
came out in his case.
The town was filled with people who came in for the
usual trading and visiting during "court week." The court-
room was crowded when Judge Samuel H. Treat convened
Lawyer Lincoln 51
court on the morning of June 3, 1839. One of the first cases
called at eight o'clock that morning was the one against
Adkins for having been in an ' 'affray." There is no record of
the lawyers involved. The jury was summoned, the case
heard, and the next morning the jury returned a verdict that
Adkins was guilty. He was fined $3.00 and costs, amounting
to $27.00. On June 10, Sheriff James Stevens was told to get
the $30.00. The sheriff levied on "one cow, one yearlin [sic]
heifer, one clock, one lot of tools" and reported on June 28
that the account was "satisfied."
After the jury had reported its verdict against Adkins,
the David Adkins vs. Robert Hines slander case was called.
Adkins' lawyers, Douglas and Benedict, had summoned seven
witnesses: James Carter, William Woods, William H. Piatt,
Edward O. Smith, James McReynolds, Shelton G. Whitney,
and Henry Taylor. Hines, through his attorneys, Stuart,
Lincoln, and Emerson, had thirteen witnesses: Philip Deeds,
Jr., and Jacob Deeds, who lived thirty miles to the southeast
and must have traveled an entire day to get there; Abraham
Souther, Abraham H. Kellar, Levi Meisenhelter, David
Stutesman, Albert G. Snyder, John G. Deeds, Bonaparte
Deeds, George Goodman, George Deeds, David Howell, and
When the jury was empaneled, one of its members was
Joseph Hanks, a cousin of Lincoln. The defendant's plea
of justification (see Appendix) was written by Lincoln and
signed by Emerson for the defendant. On the same document
is "Pleas both traversed and issue joined in short hand by
consent," and signed by "Douglas and Benedict," and "Stuart
The Lincoln plea admitted that Hines "did speak and
publish the said words of and concerning the said plaintiff . . .
as he lawfully might" and that Hines was ready to "verefy"
that justification. In other words Lincoln said in effect:
"Yes, Hines called Adkins a thief and we are ready to prove
he had grounds for doing so."
The jury heard the evidence and decided that Hines
52 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
was not guilty of slander. The costs of the trial, amounting
to $40.37, were assessed against Adkins. Stephen A. Douglas,
however, wanted a new trial and declared that Adkins had
discovered new evidence. The affidavit (see Appendix) pre-
pared by Douglas was filed June 6 with the circuit clerk but
the judge evidently decided that enough evidence had been
heard, since the case was not reopened.
Lincoln had won his case but there still remained the
slander suits against George Deeds and Levi Meisenhelter;
and, although Lincoln did not know it at the time, within
four months, instead of opposing Adkins, Lincoln would be
defending him against the other charge involving the theft of
a pig. Such circumstances were not unusual in those days,
especially when the court was required to appoint lawyers for
The slander suit against Deeds was continued until the
October term of court. There are no records to indicate what
part, if any, Lincoln had in the case. In the Adkins vs.
Meisenhelter slander suit, the defendant's plea is in Lincoln's
handwriting but signed by Emerson. The document is a
duplicate of that drawn for Robert Hines with the exception
that the name of John G. Deeds appears instead of George C.
On October 28, 1839, a dismissal of the suit against
Meisenhelter was entered, but on the next day, on appeal,
the case was called and the jury selected. Again there was a
cousin of Lincoln on the jury. This time it was John Hanks.
Lincoln may or may not have been present, but it seems
probable that he was, since on the fourth day of the term, he
was appointed by the court to serve as attorney for David
Adkins in another case. The jury found Meisenhelter not
guilty, with the plaintiff to pay the costs "in both courts"
and an execution was issued.
On this same day, October 29, the slander suit against
Deeds was dismissed at the cost of the plaintiff, David Adkins.
But Adkins was not through with the courts. The grand jury
Lawyer L inco In 53
that day brought in an indictment "that the defendant did
on or about the 15th of September, 1838, steal a shoat known
as the Lancey Shoat about six months old," the property of
John Deeds and valued at $10. The other thefts of which
Adkins was accused had taken place in March.
When the second theft case against Adkins was called on
October 31, just two days after Lincoln had won his case
against Adkins in the Meisenhelter slander suit, the court
record shows that "The defendant being unable to employ
counsel . . . the court appointed Abraham Lincoln his at-
torney. . . ." 15 A jury was called and this time James Hanks
was among those selected. Perhaps Lincoln made use of the
information in the affidavit prepared by Douglas in June in
which it was stated that Adkins had witnesses to prove he
was twenty miles away from the Deeds place on September 15,
1838. In any event, Adkins was found not guilty and dis-
charged. Lincoln had won another case, this time for a man
he had opposed in two previous trials.
Thus ended a series of cases typical of the many slander
cases tried in the courts of that day. It would be interesting
to know what fee the firm of Stuart & Lincoln received. 16
It probably was not much, however, for the Stuart & Lincoln
fee book shows that charges in 1837 and 1838 were running
at $2.50, $5.00, $10.00, and occasionally $50.00. 17 Later, Lin-
coln had cases in which he earned much higher fees but
throughout his practice he continued to handle many cases
for $5.00, $10.00, or $15.00.
One of Lincoln's cases in Macon County before his name
disappeared from the records for nine years — 1841 to 1850 —
was that of Benjamin Dillehunt vs. Kirby Benedict. Dille-
hunt had sued Benedict in a Justice of the Peace Court and
recovered a judgment for work amounting to $33.45. Bene-
dict appealed to the Circuit Court, the case coming up in
October, 1841, with Judge Samuel Treat presiding. The
lower court was sustained and Benedict appealed to the Illi-
nois Supreme Court on a question of law, and again the
54 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
lower court was sustained. In this case Emerson and Lincoln
appeared for Dillehunt while Lyman Trumbull and Josiah
Lamborn appeared for Benedict.
Legal papers in all these cases were written in longhand
as there were neither typewriters nor stenographers. Lincoln
carried no books and only a few papers in his pocket. 18 Each
county brought new cases. Lincoln appeared alone in some
of them but more often with a local attorney. In other cases,
the firm names of Stuart & Lincoln, Logan & Lincoln, and
Lincoln & Herndon appear. Decatur lawyers frequently asso-
ciated with Lincoln were Charles Emerson, Kirby Benedict*
Joel S. Post, and Anthony Thornton.
Frequently, Lincoln would appear with a local lawyer in
one case and on the same day would appear in another case
with his erstwhile associate opposing him. Richard J. Ogles-
by's name does not appear in any Macon County cases as an
associate of Lincoln, but Oglesby was an attorney in cases in
which Lincoln appeared.
In Macon County, Lincoln handled cases before four
judges: in 1838, Jesse B. Thomas presided; from 1839
through 1848, Samuel H. Treat; from 1849 through the May
term of 1853, David Davis; and from 1854 on, Charles Emer-
In 1841 the four counties of Macon, Piatt, Shelby, and
Champaign were added to the eighth judicial district. Ex-
amination of records in various counties shows that Lincoln
did not travel the entire circuit after the enlargement, and
seldom, if ever, attended court in Macon, Shelby, Mason, and
Livingston counties. 19
Although the court records in Macon County do not show
Lincoln's name after 1841 until June, 1850, he was back
attending court in the fall term of 1849. "It was the fashion
of the day," relates Mrs. Jane Johns, "for the men to wear
large shawls and Mr. Lincoln's shawl, very soft and very fine,
is the only article of dress that has left the faintest impression
on my memory. He wore it folded over the shoulders, caught
together under his chin with an immense safety pin. One end
Lawyer Lincoln 55
of the shawl was thrown across his breast and over his shoul-
der, as he walked up the steps of the Macon House one day
in December, 1849." 20
It was a memorable meeting. Mrs. Johns was living at the
Macon House and her piano had just arrived from Ohio
after having gone by steamer down the Ohio River and up
the Wabash River to Crawfordsville, Indiana, and thence by
wagon to Decatur. The wagon with the piano was at the
front door of the hotel and the problem was how to unload
it. David Krone, Macon House landlord, suggested there
would be plenty of help when the lawyers from the court
arrived for their noon meal.
When they came, there were Lincoln, Stephen Logan,
Leonard Swett, and others. Mr. Krone explained the situa-
tion. "A tall gentleman stepped forward and, throwing off
his big gray Scotch shawl, exclaimed, 'Come on Swett, you
.are the next biggest man!" 21 The tall gentleman was Lincoln.
He talked to the driver a few moments, then went to the
basement of the hotel and returned with two heavy timbers
across his shoulders. The big box was slid from the wagon
to the doorstep.
Dinner interrupted the setting up of the piano but after
the meal the piano legs were screwed into place and Lincoln
superintended the placing of the instrument. The lawyers
rushed off to court, with Mrs. Johns promising to play for
them that evening. Judge David Davis, who stayed at the
home of Mrs. A. A. Powers, came to the Macon House, as did
practically all the lawyers, and listened to a long program of
pianoforte solos and songs. Lincoln thanked Mrs. Johns for
When Lincoln resumed his court practice in Macon
County in 1850 Judge David Davis as the presiding judge
traveled from court to court with Lincoln and other lawyers.
Lincoln had served a term in Congress from 1847 to 1849
and returned to Springfield determined to forsake politics
and devote himself to law. 22 Lincoln could afford a horse and
buggy by this time. "Old Buck," 23 was "an indifferent, raw-
56 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
boned specimen" of a horse pulling a "blacksmith-made
buggy" 24 of very ordinary appearance.
Henry C. Whitney met Lincoln on the circuit in the fall
of 1854. Lincoln must have appeared much as he did when
he came to Decatur to resume practice in 1850. "His ears
were large," says Whitney, "his hair, coarse, black and bushy,
which stood out all over his head, with no appearance of ever
having been combed. . . . His attire and physical habits were
on a plane with those of an ordinary farmer: — his hat was
innocent of nap: — his boots had no acquaintance with black-
ing: — his carpet-bag was well-worn and dilapidated: — his
umbrella was substantial, but of faded green, well worn, the
knob gone, and the name 'A. Lincoln' cut out of white mus-
lin, and sewed in the inside: — and for an outer garment a
short circular blue cloak, which he got in Washington in
1849 and kept for ten years. . . . He probably had as little
taste about dress and attire as anybody that ever was born:
he simply wore clothes because it was needful and customary;
whether they fitted or looked well was entirely above, or
beneath, his comprehension." 25
"He was careless about dress, though he was always clean,"
said George P. Davis, son of Judge Davis. "I thought his
clothes were too short for him, especially his coat. For a neck-
tie he wore an old fashioned stiff stock which encircled his
neck. When he became interested in his speech he would
frequently take it off, unbutton his shirt, and give room for
his Adam's apple to play up and down. He had a high-
pitched voice, but it could be heard a great distance, every
word of a sentence being equally clear." 26
Returning to Decatur in the winter of 1849, Lincoln
found Macon County comprising the same area it has today
with a population of 4,000 of which 900 lived in Decatur.
Part of the county had been whittled away in 1839 to help
form DeWitt County. In 1841, part of DeWitt and more of
Macon went to form Piatt County, and in 1843 the last
amputation was made to help form Moultrie County.
Decatur was still without a newspaper and the Northern
Lawyer Lincoln 57
Cross Railroad, started in 1837 to cross the state from the
Illinois River to the Indiana state line, had been completed
only to Springfield. Streets were unpaved and the old square
was a parking place for farmers' teams and wagons. Mail
came more or less regularly by five stage lines west, north,
south, east to Paris and southeast to Shelbyville.
The gold rush in California was drawing off well-known
citizens. The business part of the town was largely confined
to the four original blocks about the old square although
there was a movement eastward with the Macon House being
built on what is now Franklin Street. It was as though De-
catur was standing waiting for the first railroad, the first
bank, and the first newspaper, all of which were to come in
the next five years and with them a considerable growth in
Abe Lincoln, having formed a new law partnership in
Springfield with William H. Herndon, was now traveling in
fourteen counties. In Macon County there was the routine
of suits over notes, slander, ejectment, and a divorce case,
but there are no records of a murder case in which Lincoln
was an attorney, although local tradition has it that he did
appear in at least one, possibly two, murder trials in Decatur.
When Pat Spangler was eighty-nine years old he told
Fred L. Sidthorp of Decatur that when he (Spangler) was a
small boy, he had been the star witness in a murder case in
1858 or 1859 in which Lincoln was one of the attorneys. It
was Spangler's story that his two older brothers had gone to
the Revere House, formerly the Macon House, to dance.
Young Pat followed and watched the dance from a porch.
He saw a man leave the hotel by the porch door at the same
time "Patsy" Maher, a bus driver for the hotel, who was
under the influence of liquor, was crossing the street carry-
ing a cane.
Without a word, related Spangler, Maher beat the man
over the head with the cane and later the man died of his
injuries. Spangler was the only eyewitness. He ran inside and
called others. The trial was in the brick courthouse and the
58 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
room was jammed. Spangler was scared! Maher was defended
by Lincoln, assisted by John R. Eden of Sullivan. When
young Spangler was placed on the witness stand, Lincoln
calmed his fears and then got from him the story of what
happened. Maher was sentenced to a year in prison, accord-
ing to Spangler.
Because of Lincoln's special kindness to him, Spangler
said he waded through mud and water to get to the train to
see Lincoln when he passed through Decatur on his way to
Washington to become President.
John McGinnis is quoted in Coleman's History of De-
catur as relating that Lincoln defended a man in a murder
trial which was adjourned from the brick courthouse to the
Powers Hall on East Main Street, to accommodate the crowd.
Oglesby and Sheridan Wait, McGinnis said, prosecuted the
case. This may be the same case that Spangler told about.
There are no Decatur papers in 1858 available and there are
no court records of a murder case such as Spangler described.
In June, 1851, James Shoaf started Decatur's first news-
paper. In 1852, Jasper J. Peddecord opened Decatur's first
bank with a safe in the back of his general store, and on
December 6, 1852, Sullivan Burgess, a civil engineer of
Decatur, left Springfield, Illinois, with a corps of eighteen
men to make a survey for the Great Western Railroad to
Decatur, arriving in Decatur on Christmas Day. The Illinois
Central already had made its survey through the town.
The Great Western brought its first train to Decatur in
April, 1854, and Lincoln no longer had to drive his horse
and buggy to Macon County. In October of the same year
the Illinois Central brought its first train in from the north
and by January 6, 1855, was operating as far south as Van-
dalia. Lincoln's circuit riding days were not over but he
could reach Decatur, Clinton, Bloomington, and Lincoln by
rail from Springfield. He still had to travel by stage or his
own transportation to Piatt, Champaign, Coles, Moultrie,
Shelby, and Vermilion Counties. It was not until March,
1858, that the Great Western carried him out of Decatur to
Tolono and on to Urbana.
Lawyer Lincoln 59
Decatur started to boom with the coming of the railroads.
By the time the Great Western trains started, the town's popu-
population was 1,600. The population of the county more
than doubled between 1850 and 1855, going from 3,988 to
8,365. By January, 1857, Decatur's population was 3,650 and
for two years the citizens had been discussing the cost of a
Lincoln's court practice in the county had been heavy up
to this time. In 1855 he represented Richard J. Gatling, of
machine-gun fame, William Martin and Henry Prather in an
-ejectment suit against the Great Western Railroad. Lincoln
had filed papers that the railroad company was using five
acres "more or less" and withholding "from plaintiffs the
possession thereof, to their damage of five hundred dollars,
and therefore bring this suit." His was the only name signed
to the complaint. This case continued in the courts for two
years, once going to the Supreme Court, and finally was sub-
mitted to the Circuit Court without jury in July, 1857, but
was not finally settled until August, 1859, when Joel L. Post,
then representing the plaintiffs, dismissed the suit.
The Macon County Circuit Court by 1857 was attracting
a notable array of legal talent. The Illinois State Chronicle
of Decatur on July 23, 1857, stated:
"The Circuit Court is now in session. His honor Judge
Emerson presiding. We notice among the lawyers present,
Gen. U. F. Linder, from Charleston, one of the most elo-
quent and witty orators in the State; John P. Usher, of Terre
Haute, Ind.; C. H. Constable and John Robinson, of Mar-
shall; Messrs. Edwards, Logan and Lincoln, from Springfield;
H. P. H. Bromwell, of Vandalia; John R. Eden, Prosecuting
Attorney, from Sullivan; Ward H. Lamon, from Danville;
Thos. Milligan and E. McComas, of Monticello, and O. B.
Ficklin and our old friend, Jas. Steele; an array of legal
talent seldom brought together at a circuit court session."
Charles Emerson, the first resident lawyer of Macon
County, who had served with Lincoln in the Adkins slander
cases and others, had been elected judge of the Macon
County Circuit Court in 1853 succeeding Judge David Davis.
60 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
In 1855 among the lawyers having advertising cards in the
Decatur newspapers were R. McWilliams, Joel S. Post,
Richard J. Oglesby, Sheridan Wait, C. C. Post, P. B. Shep-
ard, Thorpe & Tupper, and J. P. Boyd. It was that year that
the name of A. Lincoln was found among the signers to this
notice published in the State Chronicle:
"We are authorized to announce Stephen A. Corneau as
a candidate for clerk of the supreme court, for the second
grand division of Illinois, at the election to be holden on the
first Monday of June, a.d. 1855.
"The undersigned, from a long knowledge of S. A.
Corneau, and having confidence in his ability to perform
the duties of Clerk of the Supreme Court, of the second
grand division of Illinois, do recommend him to the members
of the bar and public, as a competent person to fill said
By 1857 Lincoln's cases in Macon County were exceed-
ingly few. He had been here in 1856 to advise on the launch-
ing of the Anti-Nebraska Party. The elections of 1858 were
in the offing. He was turning more and more to politics and
while the firm of Lincoln & Herndon is given as counsel in a
case in April, 1858, Herndon's name alone appears with that
of local lawyers in the action.
Lincoln was in Decatur for the spring term of court in
1859, the State Chronicle on March 3 saying "the amount of
business docketed for this term is not very large. There are
292 common law cases, 77 chancery suits, and 47 cases on the
criminal docket, a number of them being for selling liquor,
gambling, and such other offenses. . . . There is but few if
any cases of public interest." On March 10 the Chronicle
printed this single sentence: "Hon. A. Lincoln, of Springfield,
was in the city on Monday last."
Lincoln's Circuit Court days in Decatur were over but the
stamp of Abraham Lincoln the lawyer had been left on the
community. The tall raw-boned lawyer and politician was
going on to bigger fields. Years later Judge David Davis,
who had sat on the bench in Decatur's old brick courthouse
Lawyer Lincoln 61
and listened to the pleadings of Lincoln, said of him, when
speaking in Indianapolis:
". . . In all the elements that constitute the great lawyer,
he had few equals. He was both great at nisi prius and before
an appellate tribunal. He seized the strong points of a cause,
and presented them with clearness and great compactness.
His mind was logical and direct, and he did not indulge in
extraneous discussion. Generalities and platitudes had no
charm for him. An unfailing vein of humor never deserted
him; and he was always able to chain the attention of court
and jury, when the cause was the most uninteresting, by the
appropriateness of his anecdotes.
"His power of comparison was large, and he rarely failed
in a legal discussion to use that mode of reasoning. The
framework of his mental and moral being was honesty, and
a wrong cause was poorly defended by him. In order to bring
into full activity his great powers, it was necessary that he
should be convinced of the right and justice of the matter
which he advocated. When so convinced, whether the cause
was great or small, he was usually successful. He read law
books but little, except when the cause in hand made it
necessary; yet he was usually self-reliant, depending on his
own resources, and rarely consulting his brother lawyers,
either on the management of his case or on the legal question
"Mr. Lincoln was the fairest and most accommodating of
practitioners, granting all favors which he could do con-
sistently with his duty to his client, and rarely availing him-
self of an unwary oversight of his adversary. . . . To his honor
be it said, that he never took from a client, even when the
cause was gained, more than he thought the service was
worth and the client could reasonably afford to pay. The
people where he practiced law were not rich, and his charges
were always small. . . . He was not fond of controversy, and
would compromise a lawsuit whenever practicable." 28
A New Party
"Washington's birthday, 1856, was an important date in
the history of the Republican party and a decisive point in
Lincoln's political life."
— Albert J. Beveridge
Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1858
Abraham Lincoln was in Decatur on Friday, February 22,
1856, placing one of the important stepping stones that was
to lead him to the White House four years later. All editors
in Illinois opposed to the Kansas-Nebraska bill had been
called to meet in convention. Lincoln was the only person
not an editor. He was making his first public association
with the forces that were the real beginning of the Repub-
lican Party in Illinois. 1
Lincoln had been a man without a party, 2 for the Whigs
were floundering and had been barely alive for the last four
years. His coming to Decatur on Washington's birthday,
1856, ended his indecision and reluctance to break old party
ties. It was a decisive step to make a new political alliance. 3
Under the banner of "Anti-Nebraska," a Republican Party
unrelated to the Abolitionist-dominated Republican Party
of Illinois of 1854 was in the making.
Two years before the editors met, Anti-Nebraska forces
had started to organize when it became apparent that the
Kansas-Nebraska bill would be passed by Congress. In May,
1854, the bill was passed and the Missouri Compromise,
which prohibited slavery in any territory north of latitude
36 degrees, 30 minutes, was repealed. In providing territo-
rial government for the Kansas-Nebraska area, the new meas-
ure established the principle of "popular sovereignty" or the
A New Party 63
right of the people of a territory to choose their own insti-
tutions. Under this principle they could make their deci-
sion as to whether they would or would not have slavery.
The bill was construed as opening the way for the spread
of slavery into new territory.
Opposition to the bill, before and after it passed, drew
strength from Stephen A. Douglas' Democratic Party, the
Whigs, and other parties — this opposition becoming known
as the Anti-Nebraska movement. There was no unification
of the opposition, no central directing organization. Mass
meetings were attended by leading Democrats as well as
others. In Illinois the Tazewell Mirror, a Whig newspaper
at Pekin, proposed a state convention of "all parties and
divisions of parties opposed to the repeal of the Missouri
Compromise" to be called to make arrangements for the
fall election of 1854. The proposal failed.
Illinois Whigs opposed the Nebraska bill but they did
not want to lose their identity and proposed that dissenting
Democrats and others join them. In October, 1854, an Anti-
Nebraska or fusion state convention under the name of the
Republican Party met in Springfield with twenty-six dele-
gates present. Leading Abolitionists were in charge, 4 Anti-
Nebraska Democrats and Whigs refusing to be involved. A
campaign was made that fall, but the new party failed to be
the fusion party expected.
Efforts continued elsewhere in the state to bring to-
gether the Anti-Nebraska forces. The meeting of editors in
Decatur was an outgrowth of the effort at consolidation. On
the day the editors were in session, the Republican Party,
which was founded in Ripon, Wisconsin, in 1854, was organ-
ized on a national basis in Pittsburgh and a nominating con-
vention was called to meet in Philadelphia, June 17, 1856.
Strangely enough, also on that same February 22, the Ameri-
can (Know Nothing) Party, which had been formed out of
a portion of the defunct Whig Party and some Democrats,
held its National Convention in Philadelphia, reaffirming
the party creed with its slogan of "Americans Must Rule
64 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
America." That fall the "Know-Nothings" polled about
20,000 votes in Illinois.
Early in 1855 William J. Usrey and Charles H. Wingate
started publication of the Illinois State Chronicle in Decatur
with Usrey as editor. Its purpose was to unite the anti-
slavery remnants of the Whig Party with all other opponents
of slavery extension. "We speak without fear or favor of any
particular party," said the announcement on policy. "Our
sentiments will be Republican sentiments, so far as we un-
derstand Republicanism. We thank the fates that we are
not linked to parties, and bound to go blind upon any
party hobbies." 5
In a few months Editor Usrey was calling for a conven-
tion of Anti-Nebraska forces. In an editorial on August 16,
1855, suggesting the convention, he said:
"What do you say, gentlemen? Let us hear from you. In
the meantime we will give you our own views. We believe
that the only true course is by a Republican movement. We
can conceive of no other plan so well adapted to reduce our
doctrines to practise. You cannot unite the whole anti forces
upon whiggery, for that is dead. Know Nothingism is ob-
jectionable to many strong anti-Nebraska men, and there is
no other organized party, save the Republican movement;
all can unite upon a common platform, and be true to our-
selves and to our principles. Freedom of thought and action
are the peculiar characteristics of the American people at
this time, with the exception of a small clique (to whom
it is not necessary to give a name at this time). The people
will not be throttled into the support of any party merely
for the purpose of gratifying their desire to kill Judge
Douglas, and strike a death blow at the pernicious doctrines
contained in his favorite 'squatter sovereign bill.'
"If democrats surrender their long cherished doctrines,
they will require the same of whigs and abolitionists, and
no more can be asked of them. The extension of slavery
has been thrust upon the Union by the principles of the
Nebraska bill, and it must be met; it is the all-absorbing
A New Party 65
question, there is no dodging it, and for one we are in favor
of giving it battle, let there be no sulking in camp, face the
enemy and strike them down, and by this means more will be
accomplished in putting an end to agitation than by any
Paul Selby, editor of the Morgan Journal in Jacksonville,
Illinois, also was seeking to consolidate Anti-Nebraska forces,
and after the State Chronicle editorial in August, Selby sug-
gested that the Anti-Nebraska editors should meet. In 1912
Selby, in recalling the convention, said:
"There appeared, early in January, 1856, in the editorial
columns of the Morgan Journal, a weekly newspaper, at Jack-
sonville, Illinois, a suggestion favoring the holding of a con-
ference of anti-Nebraska editors of the State to consider and
agree upon a line of policy to be pursued during the ap-
proaching campaign. The first indorsement came from the
Winchester (III.) Chronicle, then under the editorship of the
late John Moses, afterwards the private secretary of the first
Governor Richard Yates, and still later author of Moses'
History of Illinois.
"The indorsement of the Winchester paper, followed by
a similar note of approval from the Illinois State Chronicle
published at Decatur, and on the suggestion of the latter,
Decatur was agreed upon as the place. . . ." 6
Selby's editorial appeared earlier than January, 1856, 7 as
Usrey in an editorial in the State Chronicle on Dec. 6, 1855,
gave approval of Selby's suggestion for a meeting of editors:
"We sometime since took the liberty of suggesting that
a Convention of the anti-Nebraska forces be convened at no
distant day, at some suitable point, say Bloomington, Spring-
field, or Decatur, in order that the principles contended for
may be made available and an undivided front be presented
to the common enemy, that a withering rebuke may be given
the administration party, through the ballot box.
"We are in a large majority in Illinois, and union, har-
mony and concert of action is [sic] absolutely necessary to
success. A fair understanding at the start, and success is both
66 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
certain and easy. The following from the "Winchester Chron-
icle" meets our views and we give it our support:
' 'The Editor of the Morgan Journal with a view to har-
monize the various elements of the great anti-Nebraska party
in this State, proposes a Convention of the editors of the
various anti-Nebraska papers. We second the motion. It is
high time for better understanding among those who are
battling in the same great cause. Why not have a convention,
say in Decatur, which is central and of easy access, and that
soon? "The anti-Nebraska papers," as the Morgan Journal
says, "comprise the ablest and by far the most respectable
portion of the Press in the State." There surely ought to be
some course taken to insure of action.'
"Let us hear from those papers immediately and let us
have the time most convenient to hold the convention named,
suppose we say the 8th of January next.
"Our city is easy of access, situated as it is on the main
track of the Illinois Central Railroad, immediately at the
junction of this and the Great Western, with a daily line
of coaches running eastward, it can be reached as soon as
any other point in the State. Our hotels are large and well
kept, so there will be no inconvenience suffered by our edi-
torial brethren while in attendance on the convention. We
would suggest that all anti-Administration editors through-
out the State publish the call and give us their views upon
the subject; shall we have a response?"
Out of Usrey's and Selby's editorials grew the editors'
meeting and from the editors' meeting came the call for the
Bloomington convention in May, 1856, which turned out to
be the organization meeting of the Republican Party in Illi-
nois — although the party was not immediately called Re-
The Anti-Nebraska forces, which had started forming in
March, 1854, 8 now seemed to be the logical political organi-
zation to absorb the Whigs who were seeking a new party
home. 9 The movement towards this new organization is de-
A New Party 67
scribed by John G. Nicolay 10 and John Hay in their monu-
mental biography of Lincoln in these words:
"In the State of Illinois, the spring of the year of 1856
saw an almost spontaneous impulse toward the formation of
a new party. As already described, it was a transition period
in politics. The disorganization of the Whig party was ma-
terially increased and hastened by the failure, two years be-
fore, to make Lincoln a Senator. On the other hand, the
election of Trumbull served quite as effectively to consoli-
date the Democratic rebellion against Douglas in his deter-
mination to make the support of his Nebraska bill a test of
party orthodoxy. Many of the Northern counties had formed
'Republican' organizations in the two previous years; but
the name was entirely local, while the opposition, not yet
united, but fighting in factions against the Nebraska bill, only
acknowledged political affinity under the general term of the
"In the absence of any existing machinery, some fifteen
editors of anti-Nebraska newspapers met for conference at
Decatur on the 22nd of February and issued a call for a dele-
gate State convention of the 'Anti-Nebraska party' to meet at
Bloomington on the 29th of May." 11
Abraham Lincoln was in Decatur by invitation and, seem-
ingly, by persuasion, on that historic day of the editors'
meeting. Paul Selby had been a participant in the Spring-
field "Republican" Convention of October, 1854, 12 when
Lincoln was rushed out of town 13 to avoid being asked to
make an address which would have identified him with the
organization largely in the hands of the Abolitionists — and
Lincoln was not an Abolitionist. 14 Now Selby was interested
in getting Lincoln to Decatur on February 22, 1856.
Eight days before the editors met, Selby wrote from
Springfield to his friend Richard Yates, lawyer and former
United States senator, who was at that time president of the
Tonica and Petersburg Railroad, and later governor of Illi-
nois, disclosing a conversation with Lincoln about going to
68 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
Decatur and also revealing that Selby and Yates were dis-
cussing the immediate future of Illinois politics. Not being
an editor, Lincoln was not included in the general list of
invitations to the editors' meeting, but Selby invited him to
In his letter to Yates, Selby wrote:
"Dear Sir: I have had an interview with Mr. Lincoln to-
day, and some conversation in reference to matters we were
talking about last evening. I wish you would endeavor to
see him soon, at least before the Editorial Convention. He
tells me he thinks he will try and have some business at
Decatur at the time of the Convention. Can't you do the
same? I think we all agree as to what is to be done at the
Convention. . . .
"He read to me a letter from the gentleman we were
speaking of last evening for Govr. which contains the assur-
ances you have been seeking for. This he will show you when
you see him, but of course this is all in confidence. I write
because I shall not probably be in Jacksonville before the
Convention at Decatur." 15
Lincoln had come home on March 31, 1849, from his one
term in Congress, out of politics and ready to resume his
law practice. 16 By 1854 he was back in politics as a Whig
member of the State Legislature, an office which he shortly re-
signed to seek election as United States senator. When he
could not muster the necessary votes in the Legislature to be
named senator, he used his strength to elect Lyman Trum-
Trumbull's election in February, 1855, was a bitter de-
feat and a last staggering blow to the Whig forces. A few
months afterward, on August 24, Lincoln wrote to his friend,
Joshua Speed in Kentucky: "You inquire where I now stand.
That is a disputed point — I think I am a Whig; but others
say there are no whigs, and that I am an abolitionist. ... I am
not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. . . ." 17
Lincoln was a man without a party. However, the politi-
cal mills were slowly grinding out a new party — the Anti-
A New Party 69
Nebraska Party. Thus far there was no designation of party;
the members were merely "forces." Whatever was to be its
future, Lincoln was interested as an Anti-Nebraska Whig but
it was not until February 22, 1856, that he publicly identified
himself with a central organization by coming to Decatur to
advise with the Anti-Nebraska editors of Illinois.
Selby declared: "The most important work of the con-
vention was transacted through the medium of the committee
on resolutions. Mr. Lincoln came up from Springfield and
was in conference with the committee during the day, and
there is reason to believe that the platform, reported through
Dr. Ray, as their chairman, and adopted by the convention,
bears the stamp of his peculiar intellect. ... As a matter
of fact, the only outsider admitted to the deliberations of the
convention was Abraham Lincoln, and his relations were
chiefly with the committee on resolutions during the de-
Strangely enough Editor Usrey, who was secretary of the
convention, did not mention in his Decatur paper that Lin-
coln had anything to do with the resolutions or the conven-
tion other than to be present at the banquet that followed.
In the official statement sent out to the press of the state
there was no mention of Lincoln. The Chicago Tribune
carried on February 25, 1856, the official report signed by
Selby and Usrey with no other details.
Having accepted the suggestion that the editors meet in
Decatur and having asked the Anti-Nebraska editors through-
out the state to "publish the call and give their views upon
the subject," Usrey in the edition of the weekly State Chron-
icle on January 10, 1856, published this call:
"All editors in Illinois opposed to the Nebraska Bill, are
requested to meet in convention at Decatur, Illinois, on the
2 2d of February next, for the purpose of making arrange-
ments for the organizing of the Anti-Nebraska forces in this
State for the coming contest. All Editors favoring the move-
70 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
ment will please forward a copy of their paper containing
their approval to the Office of the Illinois State Chronicle,
The following papers have announced their approval.
"Press, Pike County"
In the January 17 edition of the weekly, two more papers
were added to the list: Gazette, Lacon; Tribune, Chicago.
The Tribune in commenting on the convention said in
part: "The reasons set forth by the [Morgan] Journal so
clearly and well are sufficient. If it be the will of the free
state editors to hold such a convention, the Tribune will be
represented. We need only add that the proposition meets
our cordial approbation and we hope a ready response will
be heard from every section of the Prairie State on the part
of the editorial corps not bound to swear by Douglas and
When the February 7 edition of the weekly Chronicle
went to press, papers that had given approval included:
Staats-Zeitung, Chicago; Republican, Quincy; Plaindealer,
Oquawka; Republican, Peoria; Prairie State, Danville; Ad-
vertiser, Rock Island; Journal [German], Quincy; Fultonian,
Vermont; Beacon, Aurora; Journal, Freeport; Pantagraph,
Bloomington; True Democrat, Joliet; Telegraph, Lockport;
Gazette, Kankakee City; Guardian, Aurora; Gazette, Wauke-
gan; Chronicle, Peru; Advocate, Belleville.
In the February 14 edition the Journal, Chicago, and
Journal, Peoria, were added to those having endorsed the
By that time the Chicago Tribune had printed another
editorial endorsing the convention in which it said in part:
"At the present time there is but little unanimity of action,
and possibly but little feeling, among the editorial corps of
A New Party 71
the State. The Anti-Nebraska party is wholly without an or-
ganization, and every newspaper is a law unto itself; and
though all are contending for a common object, they are go-
ing divers ways to accomplish it. What we need is a full and
free conference, a general concurrence in some system of
policy, which may, we think, be adopted, and in a platform
of principles which all may embrace and for which all may
One week before the convention Editor Usrey estimated
there would be fifty to seventy-five editors present but he
could not know that a snowstorm would cripple and delay
railroad transportation the day of the convention. A com-
mittee of Decatur citizens consisting of Dr. Henry C. Johns,
Major Edward O. Smith, Captain Isaac C. Pugh, Warner W.
Oglesby, William Martin, Jerome R. Gorin, Charles H. Win-
gate, and J. W. Clement arranged to give the editors a pub-
Only a dozen editors had arrived by convention time.
The storm had kept some at home. Two or three arrived too
late. Others, while endorsing the meeting, evidently hesi-
tated to commit themselves by their presence. Lincoln, how-
ever, had made up his mind and stepped out into the stream
of rapidly developing political events to become identified
with the new party. The editors present at the opening of
the meeting were:
E. W. Blaisdell, Rockford Republican
Elias C. Daugherty, Rockford Register
Charles Faxon, Princeton Post
Allen N. Ford, Lacon Gazette
Thomas J. Pickett, Peoria Republican
Virgil Y. Ralston, Quincy Whig
Dr. Charles R. Ray, Chicago Tribune
George Schneider, Illinois Staats-Zeitung (Chicago)
Paul Selby, Morgan Journal
Benjamin F. Shaw, Dixon Telegraph
William J. Usrey, Decatur Chronicle
Oliver P. Wharton, Rock Island Advertiser
72 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
The meeting was held in the parlor of the Cassell House,
forerunner of the St. Nicholas Hotel on Lincoln Square.
Selby was made chairman and Usrey, secretary. The creden-
tials committee composed of Faxon, Ford, and Shaw imme-
diately excluded a reporter of the St. Louis Republican, a
pro-slavery paper, who wanted to sit in on the convention. 21
That was all that committee had to do; the resolutions com-
mittee had the important work.
On the resolutions committee, with Ray of the Chicago
Tribune as chairman, were Schneider, Ralston, Wharton,
Daugherty, and Pickett. Schneider was editor of the leading
German paper in the state. The Know-Nothing party with its
slogan, "Americans Must Rule America," caused Schneider
to insist that the editors' convention platform have a mod-
erate anti-Know-Nothing plank. 22 Lincoln is reported to
have consented, although it struck at some of his old friends
in the Whig Party. 23 On the other hand the German vote in
Illinois was important.
Selby later declared that "Messrs. Ray and Schneider . . .
were also influential factors in shaping the declaration of
principles with which the new party in Illinois started on
its long career." 24 The platform did not mention the name
"Republican," but in general the Decatur platform (see
Appendix) formed the basis for the one later adopted by the
Anti-Nebraska forces in Bloomington, May 29, 1856, when a
state ticket was nominated and Lincoln made his famous "lost
The editors said they were "cheerfully according to the
Slave States all the rights guaranteed to them by the Consti-
tution," while the Bloomington platform recorded that "we
will maintain all constitutional rights of the South." The edi-
tors went on to say that "we will strive by all legal means
to restore to Kansas and Nebraska, a legal guarantee against
Slavery, of which they were deprived at cost of the violation
of the plighted faith of the Nation." The Bloomington plat-
form used almost the identical language: ". . . we will strive
by all constitutional means to assure to Kansas and Nebraska
A New Party 73
the legal guaranty against slavery of which they were de-
prived at the cost of the violation of the plighted faith of
In its anti-Know-Nothing plank the editors declared "that
in regard to office we hold merit, not birthplace to be the
test . . ." while the Bloomington platform declared ". . . we
will proscribe no one, by legislation or otherwise, on account
of religious opinions, or in consequence of place of birth."
Both platforms ended with a condemnation of the han-
dling of state finances.
The editors adopted the platform and proceeded with
the naming of a State Central Committee consisting of a
representative from each of the nine congressional districts
and two from the state at large: Selden M. Church, Rock-
ford; William B. Ogden, Chicago; Gavion D. A. Parks, Joliet;
Thomas J. Pickett, Peoria; Edward A. Dudley, Quincy; Wil-
liam H. Herndon, Springfield; Richard J. Oglesby, Decatur;
Joseph Gillespie, Edwardsville; David L. Phillips, Jonesboro;
and from the state at large, Gustave Koerner, Belleville, and
Ira O. Wilkinson, Rock Island.
Herndon, Lincoln's law partner, an abolitionist Whig
and a member of the 1854 Republican Party, is not likely
to have been on the State Central Committe without Lin-
coln's consent. A month after the editors' convention Hern-
don declared: "This appointment is deemed by me the high-
est honor of my life," 25 but when he wrote his Life of
Lincoln he passed over the convention. Gillespie was a
"Know-Nothing" Whig and Koerner a German Democrat.
Oglesby left soon after the editors' meeting for a tour
of Europe, and Colonel Pugh was appointed in his place.
Ogden resigned due to absence from the state, and Dr. John
Evans of Chicago was named to his place. Koerner, then
Lieutenant Governor, declined to serve due to his long
affiliation with the Democratic Party and the fact that he was
not certain the time had arrived for a new party.
Final action of the formal session of the editors' meeting
74 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
was to recommend that a convention of Anti-Nebraska forces
of the state be called to meet in Bloomington on May 29,
1856. This was the convention in which the Republican
Party in Illinois would be formally launched under the name
of "Anti-Nebraska forces."
Business of the convention was over by mid-afternoon.
In his news report of the convention in the weekly edition
of the State Chronicle, February 28, 1956, 26 Usrey called it
"a large and respectable meeting of the Editors of the anti-
Nebraska Press of Illinois." The proceedings and platform
appeared on the front page. On the editorial page of the
same edition, Usrey tells of the dinner meeting:
"Owing to the failure of two trains, a portion of the Edi-
torial brethren failed to arrive in time to participate in the
Convention, and some returned home without visiting our
city. There was, however, quite a number of presses repre-
sented personally and by proxy, sufficient to transact the busi-
ness for which they were called.
"The session was a very harmonious one, and all went
away with bright expectations for the future. The Platform
and proceedings may be found on the outside.
"At i/^ past 3 p.m. the Editorial Fraternity, along with a
goodly number of citizens of this city, and invited guests,
repaired to the spacious dining room of the Cassell House,
where a sumptuous dinner had been prepared by the citizens,
under the supervision of the Committee, — Capt. I. C. Pugh,
Dr. H. C. Johns, Maj. E. O. Smith, and others, Capt. Pugh
presiding. After partaking of the substantiate, and etc., the
meeting was called to order by the President, who delivered
a neat and appropriate address welcoming the Editorial Fra-
ternity to the hospitality of the citizens. His remarks were
"Mr. Blaisdell, in behalf of the press, responded with the
sentiment: 'The Citizens of Decatur — we fully appreciate
A New Party 75
"Mr. Oglesby was then loudly called for. Mr. O. made a
number of witty remarks and concluded by toasting Mr.
Abram Lincoln, as the warm and consistent friend of Illinois,
and our next candidate for the U. S. Senate. (Prolonged
"Mr. Lincoln arose, and said, the latter part of that senti-
ment I am in favor of. (Laughter) Mr. L. said, that he was
very much in the position of the man who was attacked by
a robber, demanding his money, when he answered, 'My dear
fellow, I have no money, but if you will go with me to the
light, I will give you my note,' and, resumed Mr. L., if you
will let me off I will give you my note. (Laughter, and loud
cries of go on.) Mr. Lincoln then proceeded to address the
assemblage for some half hour, in his usual masterly manner,
frequently interrupted by the cheers of his hearers.
"Mr. Baker of the State Journal, was then called for, and
responded, that owing to the bountiful dinner, he was too
full for utterance, but would give as a toast, 'Hon. Dick
Oglesby, the next Secretary of State.' (Applause.)
"Mr. Ray addressed the audience upon the Kansas diffi-
culty, at some length, and was listened to with marked at-
"To give all the toasts and speeches, uttered on the occa-
sion, would exceed our space, and we bring this article to a
close, by the remark, that we were somewhat surprised, that
our Nebraska friends, both in the city and attending from
abroad, did not participate in the dinner, as such was the
intention of the committee."
There is not complete agreement whether Lincoln was
toasted as being the next "U. S. senator" from Illinois or as
a candidate for governor. Perhaps both toasts were offered.
Usrey said Lincoln was toasted as the next United States
senator, while Selby, who presided at the dinner, stated in a
letter dated June 7, 1912 and published in the Decatur Her-
ald of June 9, that Oglesby suggested Lincoln's name as a
candidate for governor.
Usrey reported that Lincoln responded to the suggestion
76 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
that he be the next senator by saying he was in sympathy
with the idea, while Selby wrote of Lincoln halting a move-
ment to make him a candidate for governor:
"In the course of his speech, referring to a movement
some of the editors present had inaugurated to make him
the anti-Nebraska candidate for Governor at the ensuing
election, Mr. Lincoln spoke [in substance] as follows: 'I wish
to say ... it was nothing more than an attempt to resurrect
the dead body of the old Whig party. I would secure the
vote of that party and no more, and our defeat will follow
as a matter of course. But I can suggest a name that will
secure not only the old Whig vote, but enough Anti-Nebraska
Democrats to give us the victory. The man is Colonel Wil-
liam H. BisselL' " 27
Shaw of Dixon related another incident of the Lincoln
speech at the dinner. Lincoln said, according to Shaw, that
he felt like the ugly man riding through a wood who met a
woman, also on horseback, who stopped and said:
"Well, for land sake, you are the homeliest man I ever
"Yes, madam, but I can't help it," he replied.
"No, I suppose not," she observed, "but you might stay at
What else Mr. Lincoln said in that half-hour speech which
Usrey did not have space for in his paper may never be
known. One wonders whether Lincoln's suggestion of Bissell
as a good candidate for governor explains the line in Selby's
letter to Yates: "He read to me a letter from the gentleman
we were speaking of last evening for Govr."; and whether
the convention fulfilled the expectations mentioned in an-
other line in the letter: "I think we all agree as to what is to
be done at the convention."
The editors' convention created the machinery to start
a new political party in Illinois. Lincoln was at the launch-
ing. He became almost immediately its leader.
The 1856 Campaign
"Hon. A. Lincoln ... is already in the field doing effective
— Illinois State Chronicle
Abraham Lincoln came to Decatur May 28, 1856, the day
before the convention of Anti-Nebraska forces convened in
Bloomington. He had been attending court in Danville and
drove as far as Tolono where he boarded a Great Western
train. 1 At Tolono he was joined by Henry Clay Whitney
of Urbana, who later wrote Life on the Circuit with Lincoln.
Also in the party arriving in Decatur was Joseph O. Cun-
ningham, editor of the Urbana Union.
As there was no train to Bloomington that afternoon or
night the men remained at the Cassell House on the "Old
Square" where Lincoln had spoken to the Anti-Nebraska
editors three months before. When Judge and Mrs. Cun-
ningham visited Decatur in October, 1906, the judge recalled
that stopover with Lincoln.
"A number of young men were going with Mr. Lincoln,
at his invitation, to attend the anti-Nebraska party conven-
tion in Bloomington," he said. "They got to Decatur in the
afternoon, and as there was no train to Bloomington that
night, they remained over here. We got off the train at the
station, and found that we were still some distance in the
country. There were no houses near the station then. It was
the old brick Union Station, standing in the angle of the
Illinois Central and Wabash tracks. It had been completed
only a year or two and was about the finest in this part of
78 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
"We all walked up town. No streets were laid out in that
part of the country, and we took a path wandering across the
bog. We headed straight for Decatur, which could be seen at
some distance, up a slight hill. There was quite a party of
us, probably a dozen, mostly lawyers from Urbana [there was
no Champaign then], Danville, and Monticello.
"As we reached the old Square and crossed it toward the
Oglesby House, Lincoln pointed out the exact spot, at the
west side of the square where he stopped when he came with
his father's family from Indiana in a wagon 25  years
before. He told us that the team was hitched there while his
father looked around the town and made some inquiries
about the country, with a view to deciding just where they
"After going to the hotel, and as we still had a good deal
of time on our hands, Lincoln suggested that we walk out to
the river. This we all did. We sat on a log at the river bank
while Lincoln talked about his hopes for the convention." 2
Whitney, in relating the same incident, makes no mention
of the delegates and others who came to Decatur with Lin-
coln and accompanied him on his stroll to the river:
"Lincoln was to go from Danville court direct to Bloom-
ington via Decatur, and he and I agreed that I should meet
him in Tolono and accompany him; we stopped in Decatur
just before night, and put up at a hotel, there being no train
north till early next morning. As I remember it now, we did
not meet a single chance acquaintance, although this was the
county of Lincoln's first residence in Illinois, and where he
split the historic 'rails,' although I may add there was more
romance than substance about that rail-splitting. Lincoln was
not a hard worker.
"After supper we strolled out for a walk, and when we
came to the court house, Lincoln walked out a few feet in
front, and after shifting his position two or three times, he
said, as he looked up at the building, partly to himself and
partly to me: 'Here is the exact spot where I stood by our
wagon when we moved from Indiana twenty-six years ago;
this isn't six feet from the exact spot.'
The 1856 Campaign 79
"He said further to me: 'We came into town and kept on
and made our first stop right in front of the court house,
where we now are.' I asked him if he, at that time, had ex-
pected to be a lawyer and practice law in that court house;
to which he replied: 'No, I didn't know I had sense enough
to be a lawyer then.' He then told me he had frequently
thereafter tried to locate the route by which they had come;
and that he had decided that it was near to the line of the
main line of the Illinois Central railroad.
"We walked till early bed-time, during which he told me
of his early adventures in both Macon and Sangamon coun-
ties, the Hanks family, etc.; also his early struggles in life.
"Early the next morning we took the train for Blooming-
ton. . . ." 3
A number of Decatur men were on the train that carried
Lincoln to Bloomington the next morning for the historical
gathering. At an Anti-Nebraska county convention held in
Decatur on May 10, at which William H. Herndon had de-
livered the principal address, 4 Isaac C. Pugh and William J.
Usrey were named delegates to the convention with John
Ricketts, Joab Wilkinson, Anderson Froman, John Davis,
Warner W. Oglesby, and J. W. Clements as alternates. It is
likely others went from Decatur, as Dr. H. C. Johns of
Decatur was named at Bloomington to go as a delegate to the
Republican Convention to be held in Philadelphia in June.
The Macon County Convention of May 10 recommended
William S. Crissey of Decatur to the Bloomington Conven-
tion as a suitable candidate for state superintendent of public
schools. Crissey was a circuit-riding Methodist minister who
had come to Macon County in 1831 and preached for a
number of years. In 1851 he was president of the village
board of trustees. From 1847 to 1860 he was the county school
commissioner, now known as county superintendent. He was
serving in the latter capacity when recommended for the state
nomination. In the convention, William E. Powell of Peoria
was selected as the candidate.
Editor Usrey went to Bloomington on Tuesday to attend
a convention of the Grand Temple of Honor and was there
80 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
for the early arrival of delegates for the Anti-Nebraska forces
convention on Thursday. He deemed the convention of
sufficient importance to send a bulletin to his weekly paper
timed "10 o'clock" Thursday, May 29. His paper went to
press that afternoon. In this early bulletin he said:
"Over one thousand strangers and delegates are here.
Delegates from all quarters are pouring in constantly. Gov-
ernor Reeder, of Kansas, is here, and Col. Lane will be here
today. Mrs. Robinson, wife of Governor Robinson, is also
here. The greatest enthusiasm prevails. There is one univer-
sal 'shriek' against the recent outrages in Kansas. Col. Bissell
will receive the nomination for Governor by acclamation."
At three o'clock in the afternoon he sent another bul-
"Convention organized — John M. Palmer, President.
Col. Bissell nominated for Governor and Francis A. Hoffman,
of Chicago, for Lieut. Governor, by acclamation, amidst deaf-
ening applause — and continued cheering followed. Speeches
were made by Mr. Emery, of Kansas, Hon. Richard Yates,
and the President. Enthusiasm greater than in the times of
Decatur Anti-Nebraska forces had to wait until the follow-
ing week to see what this leader of their forces in Macon
County and delegate to the convention had to say about the
gathering. He printed the entire "official proceedings" re-
port which made no mention of Lincoln's speech. The only
mention of it was in his news report headed, "People's State
Convention/' in which he said:
"The convention was presided over by Hon. John M.
Palmer, of Macoupin, and speeches were made by Messrs.
Browning, Wentworth, Sweet, Judd, Lovejoy, Lincoln, Cook,
Swett, Farnsworth, Maj. Emory of Kansas, and others."
Usrey also reported: "The other nominations were re-
ported by a committee, of which A. Lincoln was chair-
man. . . ." He gave a special paragraph to Gov. Reeder's
address at night, but Lincoln's speech, now referred to as
The 1856 Campaign 81
the "lost speech" and considered one ot the best political
addresses Lincoln ever made, apparently made no impression
Six days after the Bloomington convention Lincoln was
again in Decatur speaking at the courthouse. The State
Chronicle reported his speech in one long paragraph:
"Hon. A. Lincoln. — This distinguished gentleman, whose
name heads the anti-Nebraska electoral ticket, is already in
the field, doing effective service in organizing the friends of
Free Labor and Free Speech for the coming conflict with
the house-burning, Irish-killing, bludgeon-suasion Slave Oli-
garchy. He addressed a crowded auditory at the Court House
in this city, on yesterday afternoon. His exposition of the fal-
lacies of the Nebraska bill, and the hypocritical attempts of
the Administration party to coax old Whigs into the pro-
slavery ranks, was a telling one, and produced an excellent
effect. Mr. Lincoln will probably be present at the ratifica-
tion meeting on Saturday, and will again address the peo-
Lincoln was not present on Saturday — at least his name is
not mentioned in the short account available of the meet-
ing. The State Chronicle in announcing the "Grand Rally
and Ratification Meeting" to applaud what had been done
in Bloomington, said: "The following distinguished speakers
have been invited and are expected to be present to address
the People: Hon. A. Lincoln, Hon. Richard Yates, Hon.
John M. Palmer, and Wm. H. Herndon. Speeches in the
afternoon at 1 o'clock, and at night." 6
The letter of invitation that went to John M. Palmer
on June 1, 1856, apparently was written by Usrey, as it was
on Illinois State Chronicle stationery. It was signed by W. J.
Usrey, E. G. Flaconn, John Ricketts, I. C. Pugh, and H. C.
Johns and said:
"Dear Sir. If you recollect you promised me at Bloom-
ington to give us a call. We have concluded to have a rati-
fication meeting on Saturday next, during Circuit Court Ses-
82 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
sion, and you are earnestly invited to attend, the regular
old line Democracy want you here. Mess, [sic] Yates, Lincoln,
& Herndon will be invited but you must come by all means." 7
A week after the ratification meeting, Usrey in his weekly
edition reported that Herndon "entertained the audience
for several hours, in a forceful and eloquent address, relative
to the issues now presented to the country." Yates sent word
that he could not be present.
Usrey avoided the use of the word "Republican" when-
ever possible, although during the summer he did mention
it in connection with a local political club. In the next issue
after the Bloomington Convention he carried a list of the
Anti-Nebraska candidates on the editorial page under the
heading "People's Ticket" and continued to designate the
candidates in that way until just before the election when
he changed the designation to "Illinois State Ticket."
Editorially, he said of the Bloomington convention: "All
past party ties are forgotten and held in abeyance for the
glorious purpose of a common union against a common foe.
The time-honored and choice spirits of Whiggery and the
men who formed the flower of the Democratic party in her
palmiest days, all were found uniting for the common good."
After the nomination on June 17 of John C. Fremont and
William L. Dayton as the Republican candidates for Presi-
dent and Vice President, Usrey printed the national ticket
and electors above the state ticket, but did not give any
party designation to the national ticket while continuing to
carry the state candidates as the "People's Ticket."
Among the electors listed were Abraham Lincoln of San-
gamon County and Frederick Hecker of St. Clair as electors
for the state at large. William Herndon of Sangamon County
was elector for the sixth district.
Lincoln was not in favor of the nomination of Fremont.
He preferred Justice John McLean of the United States
Supreme Court, 8 but after Fremont had been named by the
convention in Philadelphia, Lincoln supported the ticket. In
his many speeches in Illinois he tried to persuade old line
The 1856 Campaign 85
Whigs not to support Fillmore on the American Party ticket
but to vote for Fremont.
Lincoln was not long in receiving national party recogni-
tion after the Anti-Nebraska editors' meeting in Decatur in
February and the Bloomington convention in May. In the
Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, Lincoln, on
an "informal" ballot received 110 votes for vice president
and William L. Dayton of New Jersey received 259. Dayton
was nominated in the formal balloting.
On June 26 the Illinois State Chronicle editorially said
under a single line heading, "Abraham Lincoln": "This
gentleman received quite a large vote for Vice President, and
though he was not exactly the choice of the Convention for
President of the Senate, yet Illinois will put him within one
of it by making him a member of that body, in place of S. A.
Douglas, at the next election. Who says amen to that?"
Lincoln entered the 1856 campaign with fervor, traveling
at times by himself to take part in political rallies where local
candidates had a share in the talking, and at other times with
a group of prominent party men. The Democrats on June 2
in Cincinnati had nominated James Buchanan for President
and the American Party (Know-Nothing), composed largely
of old-line Whigs, had named Millard Fillmore as its presi-
Although the name "Republican" did not appear over
the party ticket in the State Chronicle a "Fremont Repub-
lican Club" was organized in Decatur. The old line Whig
members had their Fillmore Club. At the organization meet-
ing of the Fillmore Club early in August "on motion of
G. A. Smith, Rev. Jonathan Stamper was called to the chair
and on motion of G. A. Smith, J. R. Gorin was chosen secre-
tary." 9 Forty-six handed in their names to become members.
A senatorial convention in the name of the Anti-Nebraska
Party was called to meet in Decatur on August 20. In this
case neither the "Republican" nor the "People's Party" desig-
nation was used in the State Chronicle. Editor Usrey was the
chairman of the convention at which Isaac C. Pugh of De-
84 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
catur, James Curtis of Champaign, and John M. Scott of
McLean County were put forward for state senator. Scott
was nominated. The senatorial district was composed of Mc-
Lean, Macon, Shelby, Champaign, DeWitt, Christian, Moul-
trie, and Piatt counties.
As the northern part of Illinois was considered safe for
Fremont, the most vigorous campaigning was done in the
central and southern parts of the state. It was September
before the state speakers moved into these sections. Lincoln
was announced to speak in Monticello on September 17, with
John M. Scott, the state senatorial candidate. 10 A rally in
Decatur was set for September 24.
Two days before the Decatur "mass meeting," Lincoln
was in Salem, 11 and on September 23 he addressed a Fremont
meeting in Vandalia. 12
"In the canvass of 1856 Mr. Lincoln made more than
fifty speeches, no one of which, so far as he remembers, was
put in print."
— Lincoln's Short Autobiography
to John Scripps
On the morning of September 24, 1856, flags were flying
from the porches of Decatur homes, a banner was atop the
courthouse in the old square, people were arriving from the
country on horseback and in wagon. An Illinois Central train
arrived at 7:15 a.m. from the south. From it stepped Abra-
ham Lincoln and other political notables, for this was the
day of the Fremont rally in Decatur.
Usrey's Illinois State Chronicle had announced the mass
meeting in prominent type in both the daily and the weekly.
The daily had been published since August to give news of
the presidential campaign and promote the election of Fre-
mont and Dayton. To his readers Usrey proclaimed:
"It has been determined to hold a Mass meeting of the
friends of Fremont and Dayton, Bissell and the State
Ticket, at Decatur,
"On Wednesday, September 24, 1856.
"Bissell, Trumbull, Lincoln, Yates, Palmer, Wentworth,
Browning, Herndon and others of our own state; Anson
Burlingame, of Massachusetts: Corwin and Wade of Ohio:
Henry S. Lane of Indiana — and other distinguished cham-
pions of Freedom, have been invited to be present and are
86 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
"Let the friends of Fremont throughout the counties of
Macon, Sangamon, Logan, DeWitt, Piatt, Moultrie, Chris-
tian and Shelby, make their arrangements to be present on
the 24th and devote one day to the cause. Come with ban-
ners and music, in wagons or by car-loads, on horseback or
a-foot — come one, come all! Let everybody, and his wife
and daughter come."
Seven days before the big rally the Decatur Fremont
club named a committee on arrangements. The State Chron-
icle announced the committee on September 18, saying:
"In accordance with a resolution of the Fremont club at
its last meeting, the following gentlemen have been ap-
pointed a Committee on Arrangements for the Mass Meet-
ing on the 24th. They will please consider this an official
notification, and are requested to enter at once upon the
discharge of their duties:
"S. P. Ohr, Jos. Stickell, E. Morehouse, Fred Brett, S. F.
Greer, H. Mendenhall, F. Stommell, Jno. Stickell, Jr., W. S.
Crissey, Irving Clement, A. T. Hill, I. D. Jennings, A. Fro-
man, A. J. Sinclair, J. Dowling, Jr., J. Wilkinson, J. Baker,
Jno. Lindsey, Wm. Rea, I. S. Pugh, Saml. Shelly, W. A.
At the same meeting it was decided that "a banner should
be given as a premium to the Precinct in Macon County
which will send the largest delegation to Decatur in propor-
tion to population on that day." Also, said the State Chron-
icle, "it has been determined by some of the friends of the
cause to prepare a Barbeque for the occasion," and "A Fre-
mont Glee Club will be organized in a few days and will be
ready by the 24th to discourse sweet music as an appropriate
accessory to the eloquence of the distinguished speakers who
will be with us on that occasion."
The rally was typical of the times: an all-day affair with
speaking in the daytime and at night. The committee on ar-
rangements had tried and failed to get a band but a fife
and drum corps was engaged as a substitute. The parade
Political Rally 87
formed in front of the Humphrey House in the 400 block
of East Eldorado Street, moved through the business section,
and then east across the Illinois Central tracks to a grove
south of William Street. 1
William Bross of the Chicago Democratic Press, Colonel
J. C. Vaughn of the Chicago Tribune, and "Long John"
Wentworth spoke in the morning. The crowd was disap-
pointing, there being only about 1,500 persons present.
While Decatur had a population at that time of 3,650, only
700 were voters, there being 1,500 women and 1,350 persons
less than twenty years of age. The population of the county
was 8,365. Trains were operating north, south, west, and as
far east as Tolono. However, people were accustomed to
traveling by wagon or horseback to political rallies.
The political speeches of those days were long and re-
plete with catchy phrases. Candidates spoke three or four
times a week, Lincoln himself making some fifty speeches
in the 1856 campaign. Just before the Decatur rally he was
speaking almost every day.
The picnic dinner was served in the grove as planned
but Lincoln, Senator Trumbull, and other speakers dined
at the home of Dr. H. C. Johns in the 400 block of East
North Street. "We had as guests that day," Mrs. Johns wrote
in her Recollections, "the gentlemen who were to speak in
the afternoon, and while the others drew together to dis-
cuss the news of the day, Mr. Lincoln took my Fanny on his
knee, put one arm around Corwin and told them stories for
half an hour. Twice before this we had entertained Mr.
Lincoln in our home on the farm." 2
Senator Trumbull was the first speaker in the afternoon
and was followed by Lincoln, who spoke "briefly." At early
candlelight the meeting was continued in the courthouse.
It seems likely that Lincoln left after the afternoon session
for there was to be a big Fremont rally in Springfield the
following day. 3
"I can remember the fiery eloquence of Owen Lovejoy
and the sarcastic wit of 'Long John' Wentworth, but Mr.
88 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
Lincoln's speech seems to have left no impression," 4 said
Mrs. Johns. Lovejoy spoke at the courthouse at night follow-
ing the regular rally speakers.
Editor Usrey gave the Decatur mass meeting nearly two
columns in the daily State Chronicle the next day and car-
ried the same account in the weekly issue. It is presented
here in full as a sample of the style of journalism in those
days. The editor was in sympathy with what was being said;
he combined editorial comment while reporting the news
with the following result:
"The Meeting Yesterday
"Was one which cheered the heart of every lover of his
country who was present, and the good results of which will
be exhibited in no doubtful aspect in the vote of Macon
county next November. We think we cannot be accused of
exaggeration by any fair minded man when we estimate the
number present on the grounds yesterday at 1500. We confess
our regret that the crowd was not greater, for we would
have been better pleased to have seen every voter in the
county there, no matter what his political sentiments. But
the number was fully as great as was anticipated by any of
those engaged in preparing for the meeting, and though we
would have preferred 10,000 to 1500, there was no disap-
pointment in this respect.
"The early morning gave tokens of preparation for the
day in the numberless flags which could be seen floating
from the house-tops in every part of the city, many of them
inscribed with appropriate mottoes. Some disappointment
was occasioned by the failure to obtain a band, but very
martial music was improvised for the occasion, and to the
stirring music of the drum and fife, the procession was formed
near the Humphrey House, and proceeded through the prin-
cipal streets to the grove east of town. The display of ban-
ners and flags in the procession and along the route was
very fine, those especially receiving attention being the one
gotten up by the Fremont Club of Decatur, and one pre-
Political Rally 89
pared by young Bunnell, with a wounded 'Buck' as the
"Arriving at the grounds, the meeting was organized by
calling Dr. H. C. Johns to the chair, who introduced as the
first speaker, Mr. Bross, the editor of the Chicago 'Demo-
cratic Press, 'who, in his brief speech of half an hour, en-
chained the attention of the audience with a clear analysis
of the principles and purposes of the party which assumes
to itself the name of 'Democratic.' Col. Vaughn of the
Chicago 'Tribune,' was next introduced, who commented
more especially upon the effects of slavery upon the white
race with whom it comes in contact, and upon the strength
and designs of the slave Propagandists, of which his residence
for years in South Carolina well qualified him to speak. Col.
Vaughn is an impressive speaker, and his remarks carried
conviction to the minds of many who have heretofore
doubted. Mr. Wentworth, well known everywhere as 'Long
John,' next entertained the audience with one of his scath-
ing speeches, exposing the inconsistencies and hypocrisy of
the sham Democracy. His illustrations of the sudden shift-
ings of the party was irresistible, and received with shouts
of laughter and applause.
"At the conclusion of Mr. Wentworth's speech, dinner
was announced, and the audience moved to the tables which
were loaded with the fat things of the land. Though the
crowd occupied every foot of space within the reach of the
tables, there was no jostling or rush, such as sometimes dis-
graces such occasions, but the most perfect order and pro-
priety was observed, and the wants of all were well supplied.
To the committee who had charge of the dinner arrange-
ment, much credit is due for the manner in which they dis-
charged their duties.
"After dinner the speaking was again resumed, and when
the President introduced Hon. Lyman Trumbull, the cheers
and applause which greeted his appearance testified the hold
he has upon the affections of the People of Illinois, and
to his claim to the title of 'Illinois' faithful Senator.' We
90 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
shall not attempt to give even a sketch of his address. It was
masterly, logical, convincing, overwhelming. His exposure of
the sophistries of the Nebraska party, and his dissection of
that master of sophistry, humbug and deceit — Stephen A.
Douglas — excited universal admiration. It was none the less>
complete because brief, nor did it lack finish because desti-
tute of abuse and blackguardism, such as the 'Little Giant r
is accustomed to indulge in with regard to Mr. TrumbulL
It was done without ferocity, but every stroke went to the
vitals. We wish that every man who has ever listened to the
defiant menaces, reckless assertions, and gross abuse, with
which Mr. Douglas is wont to recreate himself on the stump,
and witnessed the unblushing effrontery with which he coins
lies from the exhaustless mint of his brain, and issues them
as facts, could have been present to hear Judge Trumbull's
speech, and contrast the two Senators.
"When Senator Trumbull had concluded Mr. Lincoln
came forward and gave a brief exhortation to the Fillmore
men. This is a work for which he is peculiarly qualified,
by reason of his long connection with the Whig party, from
which the Fillmore strength is derived, and from the implicit
confidence which is placed in 'the man' by all who know
him — and who in Macon county does not know and respect
Abe Lincoln? Commendation of his brief speech yesterday
would be superfluous in this community.
"This concluded the exercises on the grounds, and after
rousing cheers for Fremont and Bissell, the audience dis-
persed, a portion of the procession reforming and marching
into town, giving occasional vent to their enthusiasm by
cheers and shouts.
"At candle-light, the court-house was crowded to its ut-
most capacity to listen to a speech from L. Weldon, Esq., of
Clinton. We believe we express the feelings of almost all
present when we say that they were surprised and delighted
with Mr. Weldon's speech. He is but a young man, and is
still younger in the Fremont ranks, being a recent 'come-
outer' from the Democracy, and while we expected a good
speech, we were not prepared for such an able, triumphant
Political Rally 91
effort, as we listened to. Every point was made with pre-
cision, and his occasional humorous illustrations were of the
most happy character. At the conclusion of his remarks, it
was announced that Owen Lovejoy was in the house, and
in response to the vociferous cries of the audience, the 'no-
torious abolitionist' came forward, and was introduced as
the 'beast with seven heads and ten horns,' of whom we had
heard so much from the Democratic stump-orators. There
is no man in the Fremont ranks in this State against whom
there has been a more studied attempt to create prejudice,
and thereby occasion detriment to the Republican cause
than this same Lovejoy, who revealed himself in all his de-
formity, to the citizens of Decatur, last night. No one who
heard him has any fears that their slander and abuse will
have any effect where he goes to counteract its influence.
His speech was irresistible, and he enlisted the entire sym-
pathies and approbation of the crowded audience, who testi-
fied their feelings by the most enthusiastic shouts which
have been heard within those walls for many a year.
"We have made but a meagre allusion to the various
speeches made, and were we to attempt a more full report,
could not but give a faint idea of their excellence. There
was, no doubt, the best array of speakers here which has been
assembled at any county meeting, and their labor told.
"There was one feature of the occasion to which we refer
with especial pride. Not a drunk or disorderly man was upon
the grounds and the most perfect order and attention was
exhibited. The assemblage was composed of sober, intelligent,
thinking men of our town and county, upon whom the work
of perpetuating our free institutions must resolve. The en-
thusiasm created in the breasts of such men will not abate,
but will deepen and widen until it will culminate in a united
and resistless effort to place old Macon right in the record
of the great contest for liberty. So mote it be." 5
The day was not without its unscheduled incidents,
among them a clash at the courthouse. Buchanan supporters
were out early to make the most of the day for their own
92 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
candidate. They went to the courthouse and hung their
banner from a window and from another window their
Buck's Horns. From the cupola they stretched a rope from
which they suspended their flag.
A couple of Fremont supporters did not propose to be
outdone by the Buchaneers, as the State Chronicle called
them, and climbed to the top of the courthouse despite all
the Buchanan men could do. There they suspended their
Fremont flag above that of Buchanan flag, where it stayed
Said the State Chronicle: "John C. Fremont placed the
flag of his country nearer the clouds than any man before
him, and his followers are not content to place his banner
beneath that of the old fogy of Wheatland." 6
At night while Lovejoy was talking in the courthouse r
eggs came through a window, spattering men and women
in the audience. Lovejoy was not hit and the Fremont sup-
porters expressed regret that there were "such shameless
rowdies in our midst." 7
On the day following the Fremont rally Usrey printed
on the front page of his daily Chronicle the platform
adopted by the Republican National Convention in Phila-
delphia in June. On the editorial page the national ticket
and the Illinois state electors still were without a political
Within a week another mass meeting in the interest of
Fremont and Dayton and the state ticket was announced for
October 13. The Democrats, with Stephen A. Douglas as
the speaker, were to have a rally on Saturday, October 11.
Quite naturally the Democrats wanted a bigger crowd than
was present for the Fremont rally, and the Chronicle con-
ceded it was "quite large."
Douglas arrived in Decatur the day previous and stopped
at the Cassell House on the Old Square. The Chronicle
contains the only report now available of the meeting, and
since Usrey was not a Democrat he did not give the meeting
much space. We can imagine that James Shoaff in his Demo-
cratic Gazette gave the rally for James Buchanan as great a
Political Rally 93-
send-off as Usrey gave the Fremont rally.
Judge Douglas and two or three others made speeches in
front of the Cassell House the night before the rally. Among
the speakers was Tevis Greathouse, editor of the Decatur
Observer. He talked at length and Usrey remarked that he
talked loud enough for him to hear from his office door
a half block away. 8
Of the Democratic rally on October 11, the Chronicle
"The demonstration on Saturday was quite large. Every
precinct in the county had been thoroughly drummed and
all wagons, men, women and children that could be brought
into the procession were on hand. . . .
"The demonstration was characterized by more disorder
and drunkenness than any public gathering ever held in this
county before, so much so that Douglas, while speaking,
found it necessary to rebuke his drunken friends, and then
meanly charged that they were Fremont abolitionists." 9
On election day Buchanan received in the nation
1,838,169 votes; Fremont, 1,341,264; and Fillmore, 874,534.
Illinois went for Buchanan with a vote of 105,344, Fremont
received 96,180, and Fillmore, 37,451. In Macon County,
Buchanan led with 821 votes although the Fremont vote,
plus the 394 given Fillmore, outnumbered that of the
In the state, Bissell, heading the Republican ticket for
governor, was elected with 111,372 votes, while Richardson,
Democrat, received 106,643, and Merris on the American
Party ticket received only 19,242.
After the election Editor Usrey still did not see Lincoln
as presidential timber, for on November 27 he said edi-
torially regarding Fremont:
"Our candidate is a model candidate, and made a glorious
race, you may bet on him in 1860, he is bound to win. Let
the Fremont party keep clear of entangling alliances for the
next four years and success is ours."
Success came in 1860 but not with Fremont. It was with
Lincoln, the Fremont presidential elector in Illinois in 1856.
"Lincoln is the strong man of his party, the best stump
speaker in the West."
— Stephen A. Douglas
On the morning of July 19, 1858, Editor Usrey entered
his newspaper office determined to write a letter to Abe
Lincoln. He did not want to be considered as meddling in
Lincoln's political strategy, but he had been talking with a
farmer who presented an idea he thought would help Lin-
coln in his campaign against Stephen A. Douglas for the
United States Senate, and Usrey wanted to pass the idea on
Following the 1856 presidential campaign Lincoln de-
voted himself for the next year to his law practice which
did not include Macon County. He delivered few speeches
and did not engage very strenuously in political activity
until the fall of 1857 when Douglas broke with the majority
of his Democratic Party over the constitution for Kansas and
the question of slavery in that territory.
By the spring of 1858 it was evident that the Republi-
cans would depend upon Lincoln to oppose Douglas' bid for
re-election, and on June 16, 1858, the Republican Conven-
tion in Springfield selected Lincoln officially as the candidate.
On the night after the nomination, Lincoln delivered his
famous "house divided" speech in Springfield. The struggle
that had been developing with intensity ever since 1854 broke
in full force. Douglas left his home in Washington and
started west, arriving in Chicago on July 9.
That night Douglas spoke from the balcony of the Tre-
Debate Echoes 95
mont House while Lincoln sat nearby and listened. The next
night Lincoln spoke from the same balcony. Douglas moved
downstate on a special train. Wherever Douglas spoke, hand-
bills announced that Lincoln would reply. It continued that
way for several days. Then Editor Usrey decided to write
that letter. Pulling out a sheet of stationery with "Macon
County Republican Central Committee" across the top and
under the words, "Secretary's Office," he wrote:
"Decatur, 111., July 10, 185&
"Hon A. Lincoln
"In talking with an old Farmer, who is strong for a man
by the name of Lincoln he used the following Language:
'Douglas is taking Advantage of Lincoln, he gets his friends
to give him Receptions, Visits a place with a sort of Napoleon
air, like that of a conqueror, takes the field, Ostensibly to
defend his course really to make votes for U.S.S. he takes
the crowd in the day time, when he is through The trains
carry off the Douglasites while Lincoln talks to Confirmed
Republican (s), who hold over. Or in other words Douglas
takes the crowd & Lincoln takes the leavings.' This is the
substance of his Language, and contains a hint too good to
be lost. If Douglas desires to Canvass the State let him act
the honorable part by agreeing to meet you in regular De-
bate, giving a fair opportunity to all to hear both sides.
"You will please excuse this meddling, with your Busi-
ness. My only excuse is that your business in this particular
case is mine also. It struck me at the time that I heard the
remark — alluded to — that Mr. Douglas was rather getting
the start of you, and that if you would make a proposition
for a Canvass immediately, you could stop the prestige of
these triumphal entrys which he is making. You can have no
excuse nor can your friends — for giving you Public Recep-
tions — Mr. Douglas has this excuse and will use it against
"W. J. Usrey" 1
96 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
Five days later, on July 24, 1858, Lincoln challenged
Douglas to a series of debates. Did the Usrey letter cause
Lincoln to take that action? The letter remained unknown
until the summer of 1947 when the Robert Todd Lincoln
collection of Lincoln Papers was opened to the public in the
Library of Congress in Washington, D. C. It may have been
an important factor in bringing about the famous debates.
On the same day that Usrey was writing his letter to
Lincoln, Ansel Tupper of Decatur was writing to Lincoln
asking that he come to Decatur and make an address:
"Decatur, July 19, 1858
"Hon A. Lincoln
"It is the general wish of our citizens that you should
visit our place this week, if you can make it convenient to
•do so, and talk to them upon the political questions of the
day. It is decidedly important that we should send a member
from this district to the legislature this winter; which I think
can be done if we only commence the work in season. We
have a very large number of Americans in this County, and
at this present time are nearly equally divided. I have no
doubt that with their vote we should be able to elect our
member; hence the importance of commencing the work,
and more particularly at this time, for the reason that there
has been an attempt made here during the last week to
cajole the American Whigs by the distribution of some cart
loads of Crittendens Speeches under Douglases frank.
"I think that if the old Whigs here could be talked to
immediately a very favorable impression might be made to
counteract the insidious side workings of Douglases little
Satellites who are continually flashing their sickly light in
our midst. I have understood that quite a number of Demo-
cratic speeches will be made here during the week. And as
our court will be pretty generally attended by the com-
munity at Large, it seems to me, that it will be a very ad-
vantageous occasion, from the opportunity it will afford to
talk to the people living in the Country, who are not gen-
Debate Echoes 97
erally very well posted, and for that reason more than any
other, they have been made the willing prey of the design-
ing demagogues, who have been fed from the public canals
leading from the public treasury, have been able to flood
the country with false doctrines and lying documents.
"If you can come please inform me at your earliest oppor-
tunity, and I will see that due notice is given in all the pre-
cincts, and that an effort is made to bring out the old Ameri-
can Whigs or also Whigs and Americans.
"Ansel Tupper 2
"Hon A. Lincoln
Lincoln did not come to Decatur to make an address.
Six days after he issued the debate challenge to Douglas,
final arrangements were completed in the home of Francis E.
Bryant in Bement, twenty-five miles east of Decatur. The
three previous days had been busy ones, with Lincoln in
and out of Decatur making train connections for Clinton
and Monticello where he had speaking engagements.
On Tuesday, July 27, Lincoln left Springfield and went
on to Clinton where Douglas spoke in the afternoon; Lin-
coln was in the audience. That evening Lincoln spoke in
Clinton. The next day Lincoln dined with Douglas, prob-
ably in Decatur 3 as Douglas was traveling from Clinton to
Monticello and Lincoln was on his way to Springfield from
Clinton, Decatur being the best railroad connection point
for all three towns.
On Thursday, the 29th, Lincoln returned through De-
catur on the Great Western, going to Bement and thence
by carriage to Monticello where he was to reply to a speech
by Douglas. The two men met on the road between Bement
and Monticello and arranged to meet in Bement that night
in the Bryant home. There they concluded arrangements
for the debates. After midnight Lincoln left for Springfield
on the Great Western through Decatur.
The Lincoln-Douglas debate closest to Decatur was in
98 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
Charleston, Illinois, on September 18, 1858. Richard J.
Oglesby of Decatur, a candidate for Congress that year, was
present. Oglesby's Democratic opponent was James C. Robin-
son, with whom he was having a series of joint debates.
Oglesby had been touring the southern counties of his dis-
trict making many speeches and came into Charleston for
the Lincoln-Douglas debate and a Republican rally that
Three days after the Charleston debate, in a letter to his
law partner, Sheridan Wait, Oglesby wrote:
"The meeting in Charleston on Saturday between Doug-
las and Lincoln was the most full and complete triumph
of the latter in the speeches, the crowds, the turnout and
the sympathy, I have ever seen. Lincoln's last speech was
absolutely terrible and Douglas so felt it that he writhed
and winced and at last left the stand in bad humor.
"The turnout was grand. A large car drawn by four yel-
low steeds and containing thirty-two splendidly dressed
young ladies, had on one side the motto, 'Westward the star
of empire takes its way: We link-on to Lincoln, mothers were
for Clay; on the other side: 'Lincoln-Oglesby-Marshall-Crad-
dock.' This was the feature of the day and all eyes were
upon it. The friends of Douglas had one but it was a poor
affair. . . .
"At night Linder, Merrick, Robinson and Lawrence with
a large crowd took the courthouse at 7. Alone I began a
speech in the yard to 200 of the faithful. In thirty minutes
I had 500 and in one hour, 1,000. The crowd all left the
courthouse and I felt that four out of five were for me. It
was intensely exciting and I spoke for two hours and ten
Oglesby had entered the campaign for Congress as an
independent but soon was on strong Republican ground.
The seventh congressional district usually was Democratic
by 4,000 to 5,000 votes but Oglesby was defeated by only
1,800 votes, Robinson receiving 13,588, and Oglesby, 11,760.
Lincoln closed that famous campaign of 1858 with a
speech in Powers Hall on East Main Street in Decatur on
Debate Echoes 99
Monday night, November 1, the day before the election,
although in Springfield on the previous Saturday, October 30,
he had said in his address, "My friends, today closes the dis-
cussions of this canvass." 5
"The weather was unpleasant, a heavy rain falling, but
the crowd was there," said Dewitt C. Shockley in 1909,
speaking of the Powers Hall address. "After the meeting
had adjourned, a number of his friends went with him to
the Revere House on Franklin Street and were with him
until after midnight. I don't remember who was in the
group at the hotel that night. I was there but I can't recall
who besides Lincoln was in the party.
"That particular night all the men who went to the
hotel after the meeting were Republicans, but the Demo-
crats were among his warmest personal friends. There were
Sherry Wait, Jasper J. Peddecord, Henry and William Pra-
ther, Steve Whitehouse, all Democrats." 6
In the legislative election, Daniel Stickel, Republican
of DeWitt County, was elected to the House from the
thirty-sixth district (Macon, DeWitt, Piatt, Champaign)
and cast his vote for Lincoln for United States Senator. Joel S.
Post, Democrat of Decatur, in the state senate from the six-
teenth district (Macon, DeWitt, Piatt, Champaign, Moultrie,
Christian, Shelby, McLean) cast his vote for Stephen A. Doug-
las. Douglas being elected 54 to 46.
Throughout 1859 the Decatur State Chronicle reported
Lincoln's activities. In April Lincoln's letter to the Repub-
licans of Massachusetts celebrating Jefferson's birthday was
published in full. In June the Chicago Journal editorial, sug-
gesting that A. Lincoln's name be added to those being con-
sidered for the next Republican governor of Illinois, was
published. In September there were dispatches about Lin-
coln in Ohio and the Chicago Journal's dispatch on Lincoln's
reception in Cincinnati.
Decatur was being kept informed about Lincoln although
Editor Usrey was still not saying anything about Lincoln
being presidential timber.
"First choice of Illinois for the presidency . . ."
— Illinois Republican Convention Resolution
The Illinois Republican state central committee meeting
in Springfield, February 8, 1860, decided that the state con-
vention should be held in Decatur on May 23. There is
reason to believe the committee wanted the convention in
a section of the state where Lincoln sentiment was strong.
No other explanation has been offered with the exception
that Decatur was centrally located.
There was good railroad service by the Great Western
(Wabash) and the Illinois Central, yet Decatur had a popu-
lation of only 3,849. It is little wonder that the Chicago
Press & Tribune on February 10, two days after the central
committee made its selection, doubted that the town could
handle the convention and suggested there was time to
change since the official call had not yet been made.
The Press & Tribune in the same editorial acknowledged
"the fitness of Decatur for the honor of entertaining the
convention, but it behooves her citizens to put forth such
efforts in the premises as shall make people feel they are
invited to it, and not repelled from it, by the circumstances
relating to their accomodations." 1
The Central Illinois Gazette, published in West Urbana
(Champaign), probably prompted by the Press & Tribune
editorial, five days later also raised the question of Decatur's
being able to handle the convention. The Gazette was edited
Unanimous Choice 101
and published by William O. Stoddard, who in December,
1859, in an editorial on "Who Shall Be The Next President?"
had said: "No man will be so sure to consolidate the party
vote of the State or will carry the great Mississippi Valley
with a more irresistible rush of popular enthusiasm as our
distinguished fellow citizen, Abraham Lincoln."
The Gazette's editorial about the convention site com-
"The locality of Decatur is central, and very easy of access,
but we have very serious doubts whether the town will be
able to provide suitable accomodations for the crowds of
guests, not to speak of the six hundred delegates, who will be
drawn together by that convention. With all deference to the
wisdom of the committee it strikes us that they have certainly
laid out as much work as any one convention should be called
upon to attend to. The mingling of State with National affairs
does not seem to be a very fortunate arrangement. 2 There is
reason to fear that one or the other will usurp an undue
share of attention to the detriment of important interests." 3
Two days later the Chicago Press & Tribune was con-
vinced that Decatur could handle the convention. "Our
friends at Decatur assure us ample arrangements will be made
to secure the comfort of delegates and others who may at-
tend the State Republican Convention, to be held at that
place in May next," said an editorial. "Whether the number
be one thousand or ten thousand, all will be taken care of.
The Republicans of that enterprising town are large hearted,
hospitable men, and we doubt not they will make this promise
entirely good. They are in high feather just now on account
of the consideration given to their place by the State Com-
mittee. Last Saturday night they held an enthusiastic mass
meeting and will hold another tomorrow night. We think the
committee did well in determining to hold the convention
at Decatur." 4
Although the state convention had been tentatively set for
May 23 the actual date and official call were held up pending
the selection of the date for the National Convention. It was
102 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
not until March 9 that the call was issued for the convention
to convene in Decatur at ten o'clock on the morning of
May 9, I860. No issues of Decatur papers of the convention
period have been found to give account of how the city or-
ganized to handle all the details.
The political situation at the time has been dealt with by
many scholars and historians. Suffice it to say here that there
were four leading candidates seeking the Republican nomina-
tion for President — William H. Seward of New York, Salmon
P. Chase of Ohio, Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania, and
Edward Bates of Missouri. Lincoln had been mentioned as a
candidate for several months but he gave little encourage-
ment to those working for him. Late in 1859 Jesse Fell of
Bloomington, Illinois, a member of the Republican state cen-
tral committee, felt that Lincoln's chances were so good that
he asked Lincoln for a sketch of his life, which Lincoln
There was a meeting early in 1860 in the office of Ozias
M. Hatch, secretary of state, in the state capitol in Spring-
field. Besides Hatch there were present: Leonard Swett, Jesse
K. Dubois, Lawrence Weldon, A. C. Babcock, William But-
ler, John Bunn, Ebenezer Peck, Jackson Grimshaw, Ward H.
Lamon, and other Republican leaders. Lincoln was asked if
his name could be used as a candidate for nomination. Lin-
coln authorized it, if the committee thought it proper. 5
Lincoln's political friends went to work in earnest. Sew-
ard had a strong following in the northern counties of Illi-
nois where many county conventions refrained from endors-
ing Lincoln. 6 At first, Lincoln thought he scarcely had a
chance in the Chicago convention but Judge David Davis,
Richard Oglesby, Jesse W. Fell, John M. Palmer, and others
were more optimistic and wanted the endorsement of his
candidacy by the Illinois convention as the first essential step
in his campaign.
Comparatively few in Decatur during March and April
thought much about the national political situation. The
majority was concerned with housing the state convention
Unanimous Choice 103
and its delegates. Citizens were thrilled that the city was to
be host to the biggest political gathering in its history. There
were those, however, who believed another political drama
was about to be staged. They recalled the Anti-Nebraska
editors' meeting in Decatur in 1856 when Lincoln entered a
new political party.
Richard J. Oglesby was one Decatur man who realized
that what the state convention did with regard to Lincoln
would have much to do with the action of the National Con-
vention in Chicago the following week. He fully expected
Lincoln to be endorsed at the Decatur convention, but he
was not taking any chances by leaving anything undone that
could be done to make the endorsement certain and im-
Oglesby had the assistance of men like Usrey, editor of the
Decatur State Chronicle, but neither Oglesby nor Usrey were
delegates to the state convention. Others might do the vot-
ing for Macon County but Oglesby would do the steering.
It was Oglesby who would set the scene for two demonstra-
tions for Lincoln before the convention was many hours old.
The immediate task for the citizens was to organize.
Homes must be opened for the housing of delegates and
visitors. The hotels could accommodate most of the political
leaders of the state, the press, and other distinguished visi-
tors. As there was no hall big enough to accommodate a
convention, some kind of temporary structure had to be
erected. This task was placed in the hands of a committee
which gave Dewitt C. Shockley, the city's leading contractor,
the job of construction.
The structure was to be located in South State Street,
occupying not only the street but vacant lots on either side.
It was to face South Park Street and would provide an en-
closure one hundred feet wide and seventy feet deep with
a platform at the back. This was to be the Republican Wig-
wam, large enough to accommodate 2,500 persons. The
name "Wigwam" had been used in New York and had been
later picked up by Chicago papers.
104 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
Lumber was scarce and expensive. Enough was secured,
however, to make seats, a platform, and to provide posts to
hold up the canvas roof. Oglesby rented a big tent from a
circus company and this provided the top covering and the
sidewalls, with the exception of the east side which was the
outside wall of a building. It was not a very pretentious
convention hall but it served the purpose and housed an
On May 4 the Springfield Illinois State Journal's De-
catur correspondent, who signed himself ' 'Viator," wrote for
"Our citizens are all alive preparing for the convention
to be held here on the 9th inst. They are now engaged in
building a Wigwam sufficiently large to accommodate not
only the delegates, but all 'outsiders' who may honor us
with their presence. The Wigwam will be provided with
seats; those intended for the delegates arranged in Con-
gressional districts, and counties duly labelled. (Our rural
friends in Springfield can find their places easily.)
"There will be nine halls prepared, so that each Con-
gressional District can hold separate meetings for the trans-
action of business.
"The delegates by applying to the reception committee
at the Wigwam will be furnished boarding tickets for such
as cannot find accommodations at the hotels. The hotels are
fitting up rooms in various parts of the city for lodging visi-
tors. Eating houses are well prepared to feed the multitude,
and no man need go away dissatisfied, unless he fails to
make his wants known.
"Editors are requested to report to the Chronicle county
room, where they will be shown to a room prepared for
their convenience in writing and making their reports.
"Among the sights which will greet your eyes will be a
lot of rails, mauled out of Burr Oak and Walnut, thirty
years ago, by old Abe Lincoln and John Hanks, of this
county. They are still sound and firm, like the man that
made them. Shall we not elect the Rail Mauler President?
Unanimous Choice 105
His rails, like his political record, are straight, sound and
out of good timber.
Four days before the convention the State Journal printed
this clipping from the Decatur Magnet:
"On Wednesday next the Republican State Convention
will assemble in this city. It is believed that it will be largely
attended; therefore we may expect to see a tremendous
crowd of people during the session. So far as we know,
ample preparations have been made at our hotels, boarding
houses and private residences to entertain the delegates in
a becoming manner. We are glad to know that our citizens,
irrespective of politics, have consented to throw open their
doors and 'take the strangers in.' This is right. It will reflect
a credit upon our young city that will not soon be forgotten
by those who may be in attendance. A large 'wigwam' is to
be erected for the use of the members. We feel that after the
Convention closes and the delegates return home, they will
remember Decatur for the hospitality they received during
the stay with us." 8
Delegates and visitors began arriving in Decatur on Mon-
day, May 7, although the convention was not to open until
Wednesday. On Monday night the trains left Springfield on
the Great Western "packed full," said the Springfield State
Journal. On Tuesday the Chicago Press & Tribune corre-
spondent sent a special dispatch declaring "the town is over-
flowing with delegates. The citizens are receiving them cor-
dially. The convention will be nearly unanimous for Lincoln
for President, and the delegates to the Chicago convention
will probably be instructed for him. The central and South-
ern counties are opposed to Seward. . . ." 9
On Wednesday the Central Illinois Gazette correspondent
wrote: "For two days past the town has been filling up,
testing, even before this moment, the utmost capacity of
hotel and private accommodations." 10 "Viator" wrote for
the Springfield State Journal:
106 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
"This thriving city is now the theater towards which the
eyes of the intelligent voters, of all parties, in our state are
turned. It would surprise you to see how large a turn out
of live Republicans throng its busy streets. The crowd began
assembling on Monday when the advance guard reached here,
and every train that has since arrived, has contributed its
quota, filling the city to its utmost capacity. The hotels and
restaurants are, of course, reaping a rich harvest. Hundreds
who could not obtain lodging with them, have been taken to
private homes — the citizens generally, without distinction
of party, throwing open their doors and giving a cordial wel-
come to strangers." 11
Lincoln arrived from Springfield on Tuesday, May 8,
with John Moses and N. M. Knapp of Winchester, Illinois.
Moses and Knapp were delegates and had stopped over in
Springfield to consult with Springfield men who had done
a great deal of the preliminary work of the Decatur conven-
tion with a view to the nomination of Lincoln at the Chicago
convention. Knapp was a close friend and adviser of Lincoln
and Lincoln had acknowledged himself indebted to Knapp
for valuable suggestions and aid in 1854. 12
Moses related later that the three men "being unable to
find stopping places, got rooms at the Junction House and
not caring for the speaking, the fireworks and hurrah at the
Wigwam, we spent the evening together at the hotel, and a
pleasant as well as memorable evening it was. Lincoln and
Knapp slept together in one bed, and soon after retiring,
either of them being rather long for the bedstead, an at-
tempt to turn over by one of them resulted in letting them
down on the floor. On jumping up, Knapp exclaimed, 'Well
Lincoln, I guess we shall have to reconstruct our platform!'
which pleased Old Abe very much. He told it to a great
many the next day as a good thing.
"It was to Knapp that Mr. Lincoln replied when asked if
he intended to go to the Chicago convention, that 'he did
not know whether he was too much of a candidate to go or
not enough of a candidate to stay away.' " 13
Unanimous Choice 107
A heavy rain fell on May 8, 14 the day Lincoln arrived.
The rain did not help Decatur's dirt streets but did freshen
the new square (Central Park) in front of the Wigwam
and where, just the year before at the request of businessmen,
trees had been planted and the grounds made more attractive.
A two-horse wagon arrived from the East with several
young men from Tuscola. They had driven across the prairie
with Archibald Van Deren who conducted the Tuscola
House in his home town. In the group was a young man
named Joe Cannon, who later was to serve many terms as
Speaker of the House of Representatives in Washington. As
the wagon neared the Macon House, Van Deren saw Lincoln
and shouted: "Howdy, Abe." "Howdy, Arch," came back
the answer from Lincoln. 15
Prior to his locating in Tuscola Van Deren had lived in
Springfield in the neighborhood where Lincoln lived and
was a warm personal friend. His Tuscola hotel was located
at Houghton and Main Streets and it was there that Mrs.
Van Deren conducted the first Sunday School in Tuscola,
the date being the second Sunday in September, 1859.
On a train arriving at two o'clock in the morning of the
day the convention convened was Orville Hickman Brown-
ing of Quincy. Browning went to the Macon House where
he got a "small, hard bed" and "slept little." 16 Although
Browning was to do much in the coming months for the
election of Lincoln, the two-day convention just ahead of
him was to be rather disturbing, inasmuch as Browning's first
choice for the Republican nomination in the National Con-
vention was Judge Edward Bates of Missouri. 17
Convention day dawned "pleasant but somewhat cool." 18
The audience space in the Wigwam filled early, and crowds
milled around outside for the "largest gathering of its class
ever held in Illinois" 19 to get underway. At ten o'clock Hon.
Jackson Grimshaw, member of the State Central Committee,
called the convention to order. When the delegates were
seated there was only one vacant space: there were no dele-
gates from Pulaski County.
Grimshaw's remarks were brief and at his suggestion,
108 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
John M. Palmer of Macoupin County was called to preside
as temporary chairman. Judge Palmer went to the platform
amid great applause and thanked the convention delegates
for the honor accorded him. Samuel Willard of McLean
County, W. C. Flagg of Madison, and W. L. Church of
Cook, were appointed secretaries pro tern, completing the
temporary organization. The Rev. T. M. Oviatt of the De-
catur Presbyterian Church offered prayer and the convention
was ready to proceed with its business.
The call of the counties showed 700 delegates present
casting 636 votes. For Macon County, Herman Lieb, Ansel
Tupper, Samuel Gillespie, Jacob Wilkinson, and V. P. Fobes
were the official delegates casting the county's five votes.
A committee on permanent organization of one member
from each of the nine congressional districts was named 20
and the convention took a recess for dinner. By that time it
was estimated 3,000 had crowded into the Wigwam and be-
tween 1,000 and 2,000 were standing outside.
The convention reassembled at two o'clock. It was a
memorable afternoon, one that was to give the presidential
campaign a slogan that has lived to this day. Thomas J.
Turner of Stephenson County, chairman of the committee
on permanent organization, reported for the committee.
Joseph Gillespie of Madison County was nominated for per-
manent president of the convention along with nine vice
presidents and five secretaries. 21
George T. Brown of Madison County and Thomas
Turner of Freeport, escorted Gillespie to the platform where
his brief acceptance speech was followed by rounds of ap-
plause. Oglesby was on his feet at once. The time was right
for the first Lincoln demonstration. Lincoln was squatting
or sitting on his heels just within the Wigwam door. 22
Oglesby addressed the chairman: "I am informed that a
distinguished citizen of Illinois, and one whom Illinois will
ever delight to honor, is present, and I wish to move that
this body invite him to a seat on the stand." Oglesby paused.
The great audience waited. Then Oglesby shouted, "Abra-
Unanimous Choice 109
"Not a shout but a roar of applause, long and deep, shook
every board and joist of the Wigwam," wrote Ward H.
Lamon. "The motion was seconded and passed. A rush was
made for the hero who sat on his heels. He was seized and
jerked to his feet. An effort was made to 'jam him through
the crowd' to his place of honor on the stage; but the crowd
was too dense, and it failed. Then he was 'troosted' — lifted
up bodily — and lay for a few seconds sprawling and kicking
upon the heads and shoulders of the great throng. In this
manner he was gradually pushed forward to the stand, and
finally reached it, doubtless to his great relief, 'in the arms
of some half dozen gentlemen'; who set him down in the full
view of his clamorous admirers. 'The cheering was like the
roar of the sea.' Hats were thrown by the Chicago delegation,
as if hats were no longer useful." 23
Lincoln acknowledged the cheers and sank into a chair.
Oglesby had scored with his first demonstration.
The chairman called for nominations of candidates for
governor. Turner of Stephenson County nominated Leonard
Swett of McLean County. J. T. Eccles of Montgomery County
nominated Richard Yates of Morgan County. T. D. Murphy
nominated Norman B. Judd of Cook County. An informal
ballot was taken showing Judd, 245; Yates, 183; Swett, 191;
and 12 for James Knox.
As the convention prepared to take the first formal ballot,
Dick Oglesby arose again. He declared there was an old
Democrat outside who had something he wished to present
to the convention. It was a peculiar time to interrupt the
convention proceedings but it seems likely the presiding
officer, Joseph Gillespie, knew what Oglesby was talking
about. "What is it? What is it?" asked some as others shouted,
"Receive it! Receive it!" A vote was taken and the chairman
ordered that the "old Democrat" be allowed to enter.
John Hanks, who had been instrumental in bringing
Lincoln to Illinois and had been a Democrat all his life,
entered the Wigwam with Isaac Jennings, each of them
carrying a fence rail with a banner stretched between on
which was this inscription:
110 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
"The Rail Candidate
"Two rails from a lot of 3,000 made in 1830 by Thos.
Hanks and Abe Lincoln, whose father was the first pioneer of
Macon County." 24
Pandemonium reigned. The burst of applause became a
wild acclaim. The roar was deafening. If there was ever any
doubt about the convention being for Lincoln, it was now
removed. The demonstration continued to grow. Lincoln
was called for a speech. When the crowd quieted down
Lincoln declared that he and John Hanks had split rails
but he did not know whether he had made those particular
rails or not, and jokingly pointed out that he did not think
they were a credit to the maker. However, he said, he had
made rails in the past but thought he could make better
Oglesby had scored again with a second demonstration
for Lincoln in one afternoon.
The Chicago Press & Tribune reported the incident in a
"Pending the first formal ballot, much enthusiasm was
aroused by a banner brought in by an old citizen of Macon
county, the standards of the same being a couple of stout
fence rails, split out by 'Old Abe' in 1830 while at work
ten miles south of Decatur. It bore an appropriate motto
referring to the same. Mr. Lincoln was called out and re-
sponded in a pleasant vein, saying he did split the rails or
some equally as good." 25
The correspondent of the Springfield State Journal was
"No feature of the Republican State Convention was
more clearly marked than the unanimity which was mani-
fested there for the Hon. Abraham Lincoln. The delegates
from every part of the State vied with each other in exhi-
bitions of their unbounded admiration for him.
"Mr. Lincoln's appearance in the Wigwam as a spectator
of the proceedings of the convention was the occasion of a
Unanimous Choice 111
particularly interesting episode. He had, in pursuance of
the courtesy extended him, hardly taken his seat upon the
platform, amidst the wildest demonstration of enthusiasm,
when Mr. Oglesby of Decatur announced to the delegates
that an old Democrat of Macon county, who had grown gray
in the service of that party, desired to make a contribution
to the convention and the offer being accepted, forthwith
two old time fence rails, decorated with flags and streamers,
were borne into the convention. . . .
"The effect was electrical. One spontaneous burst of ap-
plause went up from all parts of the 'wigwam' which grew
more and more deafening as it was prolonged, and which did
not wholly subside for ten or fifteen minutes after. The
cheers upon cheers which rent the air could have been
heard all over the adjacent country.
"Of course 'Old Abe' was called out, and made an ex-
planation of the matter. He stated that some thirty years ago r
then just emigrating to the State, he stopped with his
mother's family, for one season in what is now Macon Coun-
ty; that he built a cabin, split rails and cultivated a small
farm down on the Sangamon river, some six or eight miles
from Decatur. These, he was informed were taken from
that fence; but whether they were or not, he had mauled
many and many better ones since he had grown to manhood.
"The cheers were renewed with the same vigor when
he concluded his remarks, and as they subsided, many a dele-
gate, in thoughtful mood, contrasted the present position of
the noble, self-taught, self-made statesman and patriot, whose
name is now mentioned in connection with the highest office
in the gift of the nation, with that of the humble pioneer and
rail-maker of thirty years ago." 26
Sixty-four years later Ida M. Tarbell wrote of the inci-
"Probably never in the political history of this country
has there been anything picked up more quickly as a fitting
campaign cry than those rails, unless perhaps the log cabin
in the days of Harrison. . . . There began that day at Decatur,
112 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
when John Hanks marched into the hall with the rail that
Abe made, an outburst of pioneer enthusiasm which has
never been equalled in the country. Slogans, campaign signs,
cartoons from now on used the rail as a party symbol." 27
The rails served their purpose whether they came from
the Lincoln cabin site or not. Charles Hanks, who had lived
all the time within two and one-half miles of the Lincoln
Cabin, wrote in a published letter in 1860 that the entire
fence was burned five years after it was built and that he had
helped to build a new one. John Hanks maintained the
genuineness of the rails. 28
LaFayette Whitley, whose father bought the Hanks farm
in the neighborhood of the Lincoln Cabin, added to the
controversy in 1895 when he sold the land containing the
Hanks farm. He said he was a boy on the farm when "Uncle
Dick" Oglesby and "Uncle Johnny" Hanks came to his
father and told him they wanted some of the rails which
had been split by Lincoln. The senior Whitley told them to
go to the fence and get all they wanted, "but I don't suppose
my father would have let them have them if he had known
how the election was going, for he was a staunch Democrat." 29
The demonstration over, the convention resumed the bal-
loting to select a candidate for governor. The endorsement of
Lincoln by a convention resolution did not come until the
next day; it did not occur immediately after the rail episode
as many writers have declared. On the fourth ballot Yates
was nominated as candidate for governor, and addressing the
convention "at some length" declared himself for whatever
nominee for President the Chicago convention might select,
although he expressed a preference for Lincoln. This started
another Lincoln demonstration. Following a speech by Judd,
the convention adjourned at six o'clock to meet at ten o'clock
the next day.
That night the Wigwam was the scene of a big rally
with numerous prominent Republicans responding to calls to
speak. Browning, the resolutions chairman, did not return
to the hard bed at the Macon House but went to the home
Unanimous Choice 113
of Oglesby. Browning turned down an invitation to go out
in order to work on the convention resolutions for the next
Selecting the remainder of the state candidates was the
first order of business the next morning. The weather was
delightful and another large crowd assembled both within
and without the Wigwam. With the state candidates nomi-
nated 31 Judge Palmer offered the resolution that placed the
Republican Party in Illinois back of Lincoln for the presi-
dency and pledged its delegates to him:
"Resolved, that Abraham Lincoln is the first choice of
Illinois for the Presidency, and that our delegates be in-
structed to use all honorable means for his nomination by
the Chicago convention, and to cast their votes as a unit for
Thomas J. Turner of Freeport, who had served in Con-
gress with Lincoln and was leading the fight for Seward,
attacked the resolution. Palmer replied in a strong speech.
"A motion was then made," says the official report of the
convention, "to strike out 'and to vote as a unit for him',
and a further motion was made to strike out 'for him.' A
motion to lay these amendments on the table lost. The con-
vention refused to strike 'for him' and adopted the resolution
as offered." 32
The Chicago Press & Tribune had a different version
about what happened. It said there was a motion to amend
the resolution by adding the words, "for him." "Some wanted
the vote to be a unit throughout," said the paper, "while
others contended that in case of the failure to nominate Mr.
Lincoln, delegates should be left to follow their own prefer-
ence. . . . The motion to amend finally prevailed and was
unanimously adopted amid 'wildest enthusiasm.' " 33
Both versions agree that "for him" was in the resolution
when finally adopted. Further comment on the resolution
controversy is provided in an unsigned letter in the Illinois
State Journal of May 26, 1879. The writer of the letter says:
"The Wilsons of the Chicago Journal and a few others
114 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
from the northern part of the state, led by the late Thomas
J. Turner of Freeport, opposed any instructions, and not
withstanding that nine-tenths of the delegates and all the
outsiders were for Old Abe 'now and forever' they, as after-
wards in the State Convention of 1864, patiently listened to
those who opposed instructing for Old Abe, and sat there
holding in their enthusiasm and impatience for the sake of
"Tom Turner was a tall fine looking man of more than
average ability. At last, however, John M. Palmer took him
and the Seward men in hand. I think it no flattery to say
that there is no man living who can, when the opportunity
presents itself, either in law or in a political convention, so
grandly rise to the occasion and 'fill the bill' as John M.
Palmer. . . .
"Palmer said in substance: 'Does my friend from Free-
port imagine that, because this convention like true Repub-
licans, has insisted upon the right of free speech, and granted
a little handful of delegates in this convention the right to
express their opinions freely and somewhat at too great length
— is he so blind and so deaf that he cannot see and hear that
this Convention is literally sitting on a volcano of its own
enthusiasm for Abraham Lincoln, and just aching to give
three cheers and a tiger for Old Abe?' The Convention went
wild with enthusiasm." 34
Lowber Burrows, one of Decatur's early bankers, who was
present at the convention, said that when Lincoln was en-
dorsed by the convention the future President was not in the
Wigwam but was asleep in the back room of Jim Peake's
jewelry store. 35 There was a couch in the rear of the room
and Lincoln, who was well acquainted with Peake, accord-
ing to Mr. Burrows, went in there and said he preferred to
lie down and rest rather than mix with the crowd. There,
a committee, after a search, found him.
Richard Price Morgan, chairman of the Livingston Coun-
ty delegation to the convention, said in an address at Pon-
tiac, Illinois, on February 12, 1909, that Lincoln was brought
Unanimous Choice 115
in after the resolution was passed and that he received the
news "without a smile but the benignant expression of his
eyes and face, and also his whole attitude, disclosed to every
man in that multitude the affectionate gratitude of his heart."
He added that Lincoln spoke only a few words of thanks.
Later the Livingston County delegation called on Lincoln
when the convention had adjourned and asked him what he
thought his chances would be in Chicago. Lincoln replied,
according to Morgan, that he probably would get about one
hundred votes and "I have a notion that will be the high
mark for me." 36
Selection of delegates to the Chicago convention was the
final piece of business. Norman B. Judd, Gustave P. Koerner,
David Davis, and Orville H. Browning were named dele-
gates at large with Richard J. Oglesby of Decatur one of the
four alternate delegates at large together with W. B. Plate,
T. G. S. Herrod, and N. G. Wilcox. A. B. Bunn of Decatur
was named as an alternate delegate for district seven, the
regular district delegates being:
1. Jason Marsh, Solon Cumins
2. George Schneider, George T. Smith
3. Benton C. Cook, Oliver L. Davis
4. H. Grove, E. W. Hazard
5. William Ross, James S. Irwin
6. Stephen T. Logan, Nathan M. Knapp
7. Thomas A. Marshall, William P. Dole
8. F. S. Rutherford, D. K. Green
9. James C. Sloo, David L. Phillips
The convention recessed until two o'clock when Brown-
ing reported for the resolutions committee. At three o'clock
the historic state convention adjourned with six cheers for
the state ticket and six more for the nominee of the Chicago
". . . If Abe should be nominated for President I will vote
for him. . . ."
— John Hanks
Six days after Abraham Lincoln had been endorsed by
the Illinois Republican Convention as "the first choice of
Illinois for the presidency," the National Republican Con-
vention opened in Chicago, with Richard Oglesby of Decatur
as a member of that celebrated Illinois delegation headed by
Judge David Davis and Norman B. Judd, which would leave
no stone unturned to aid in the nomination of Lincoln.
This was the day to which Oglesby had looked forward
for four years. He had welcomed Lincoln at the Anti-Ne-
braska editors' banquet in Decatur in 1856; he had cam-
paigned with him in 1858; he had engineered two demon-
strations in the state convention to stampede the delegates
to Lincoln, and now he was with Judge Davis, Judge Logan,
Leonard Swett, John M. Palmer, Norman B. Judd, Jesse W.
Fell, and a score of others, with headquarters in the Tremont
House, working to make Lincoln the choice of the National
The convention opened on Wednesday, May 16. On
Thursday the platform was debated and adopted. On Friday,
May 18, Lincoln was nominated. From then until the election
in November, Lincoln made no speeches. All the campaign-
ing "was done by others while the Republican candidate
remained quietly at Springfield." 1
Lincoln appeared at the great rally in Springfield on
The Election 117
August 8, 1860, saying "it has been my purpose, since I have
been placed in my present position, to make no speeches,"
and in about 250 words he said he was greatly gratified by
the demonstration and that "it is my wish that you will hear
the public discussion by others . . . and that you will kindly
let me be silent." 2
Macon County staged its great rally and ratification on
Saturday, July 7, "in a grove near the city" 3 with 8,000
present, including many Democrats. The Decatur Wide
Awake organization was out in force: 200 Wide Awakes
came from Springfield under command of General John
Cook, and there were delegations from other towns, all
marching to the music of the Decatur Cornet band. The
Wide Awake organizations carried a thin rail surmounted
by a swinging lamp and small American flags bearing the
names of Lincoln and Hamlin.
The Wide Awakes were marching organizations, each
member wearing a glazed cap and cape and carrying a colored
lantern or blazing coal oil torch. They paraded the streets of
almost every town in the North during the summer and fall,
always arousing great enthusiasm.
Their origin was purely by accident. Cassius M. Clay
spoke in Hartford, Connecticut, in February. A few ardent
Republicans accompanied him as an escort or bodyguard,
and to protect their clothing from the dripping of the
torches a few of them wore improvised capes of black glazed
cambric. The uniform attracted so much attention that a
campaign club, formed in Hartford soon after, adopted it.
The club called itself the Wide Awakes.
Other clubs took up the idea and soon there were Wide
Awakes drilling throughout the North. A great many evolu-
tions were invented, a favorite one being a peculiar zigzag
march, an imitation of a rail fence. Numbers of clubs adopted
the drill of the Zouaves, a popular military organization of
the day. Almost all the clubs had their own peculiar badges,
Lincoln splitting rails or engineering a flatboat being favorite
decorations. There were many medals worn as well. Some of
118 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
these badges mixed business and politics. One side implored:
"Vote for the Rail Splitter," while the other side advertised
such products as wagons or tea.
Most of the clubs owned so-called Lincoln rails which
were given the place of honor on all public appearances.
The Hartford "originals" had a maul said to have been used
by Lincoln in making rails. It was obtained in Illinois and
there were credentials to back up the claim. It is now in
the possession of the Connecticut Historical Society.
At the Macon County rally of July 7, Dr. George Beaman
was marshal of the day, his assistants being W. G. Jones,
Edminston McClellan, and W. J. Brown. The day's activities
opened, as was the custom with all political rallies in those
days, with the raising at ten o'clock of a high pole flying the
American flag and the political banners. The speaking did
not commence until one o'clock when three of the strongest
Republican leaders in the state were presented. Lyman
Trumbull led off, followed by Judge David Davis and Leon-
ard Swett, in an afternoon of oratory.
In the evening came the "brilliant torch light parade,"
a mile in length and "never equalled since the Harrison
campaign in 1840." More than 500 Wide Awakes were in
the procession. During the evening, Richard J. Oglesby, on
behalf of the Decatur Wide Awakes, presented to the Wide
Awake club of Springfield a gavel made from a rail "split by
Lincoln" in Macon County more than thirty years before.
The following week the Decatur State Chronicle printed
a long letter from John Hanks, Lincoln's cousin. Despite the
close relationship, Hanks had never voted for Lincoln, re-
maining loyal to the Democratic Party. In the letter he said
he was going to vote for his cousin for President. His letter
was an answer to a news item in a Columbus, Ohio, paper
that declared Hanks was going to vote against Lincoln.
Hanks said he had voted for Douglas in 1858 "against
my old friend, Mr. Lincoln." He recalled how he and Lin-
coln had toiled together on river boats and in the forests;
how he had helped to get rails for the Republican state con-
The Election 119
vention. He had declared then that if Abe should be nomi-
nated for President he would vote for him.
His letter (see Appendix) was republished in a number
of papers in Illinois and in part in many eastern papers,
attracting wide attention and undoubtedly pleasing Lincoln.
It is suspected that Oglesby had much to do with the writing
of the letter but it was signed with John Hanks's name.
On August 16 the Constitution Union Party held its
state convention in Decatur (see Appendix). John Bell of
Tennessee and Edward Everett of Massachusetts were the
party's candidates for President and Vice President. There
were eighty-nine delegates present. A state ticket was nomi-
nated and district delegates and electors named. Jonathan
Stamper of Decatur was nominated for state treasurer on a
ticket headed by John Stuart of Sangamon County for gov-
When the voters of Macon County went to the polls in
November they gave Douglas forty more votes than they
gave Lincoln. The totals were:
Stephen A. Douglas, 1,541
Abraham Lincoln, 1,501
John Bell, 56
John C. Breckenridge, 29
In the home of James Shoaff, staunch Democrat, there
was rejoicing by Mrs. Shoaff over the election of Lincoln.
Mr. Shoaff wrote to Lincoln:
"Decatur, Ills., Nov. 14, 1860
"Dear 'Abe': — Nancy wishes me to inform you that she
had our cottage beautifully illuminated last night, in honor
of your election to the Presidency. She is a Strong Lincoln
woman, and has fought manfully for you during the cam-
paign. Your friends had a grand time here last night.
"JAMES SHOAFF" 4
"An immense multitude awaited the arrival of the
train. . . ."
— Henry Villard in the New York Herald
Abraham Lincoln, President-elect of the United States,
went through Decatur on January 30, 1861, on his way to
Charleston, Illinois, to see his stepmother, who lived eight
miles from that city, and to visit the grave of his father.
Judge David Davis and Judge Edward Bates were traveling
with him from Springfield. As the train passed Harristown,
Lincoln told his companions that south of there he had
helped his father build a house and made enough rails to
fence about ten acres. Since that was thirty years ago, he
said, he could hardly identify the rails he had made.
John Hanks got on the train in Decatur and went with
Lincoln — Hanks having been advised by letter of the visit
Lincoln was to make. 1 From Charleston the party went to
Farmington and visited Lincoln's stepmother, Mrs. Sarah
Bush Johnston Lincoln, and the Dennis Hanks family. It
was just twelve days before Lincoln was to leave for Wash-
People began arriving at the Decatur Union Station soon
after eight o'clock the morning of February 11, 1861. The
station had been erected only a little more than four years
earlier and was still attractive in its newness. Here the special
train bearing President-elect Lincoln and his party would
arrive at 9:24 a.m. At eight o'clock the train was leaving
Springfield but people were arriving at the Decatur station
on horseback, in wagons and carriages, and on foot.
To Washington 121
As train time neared, the station plattorm was filled
and the crowd overflowed into any space from which the
train could be seen. James Millikin, Jerome R. Gorin, Low-
ber Burrows, John Ullrich, and scores of other business and
professional men who had worked in the political campaigns
of the last five years in which Lincoln was the leading Re-
publican of the state, were there to greet Lincoln. In addi-
tion there were Democrats and members of other parties, all
anxious to get a glimpse of the next President of the United
States who was once a resident of Macon County.
It lacked but eleven days of being five years since Lincoln
had come to Decatur for the Anti-Nebraska editors' meeting
in which the foundation for the Republican Party in Illinois
was laid and where Lincoln made his first public appearance
in association with the formation of a new party. It was only
nine months since he had left Decatur with the title of "Rail
Splitter" and the unanimous endorsement of the Republican
state convention for President. Decatur felt a particular
closeness to Lincoln in his present position.
The train came into view. It consisted of two passenger
cars, a baggage car, and a decorated engine in charge of W. C.
Whitney, conductor. Also aboard were Clint C. Tilton, presi-
dent of the Great Western (Wabash) Railroad, and F. W.
Bowen, superintendent of the division of the Great Western
over which the train was passing. The President-elect and
his son, Robert, were the only members of the Lincoln
family aboard, for Mrs. Lincoln and the other two sons were
traveling by a different route.
With Lincoln were his secretary, John Nicolay, and also
John Hay, who had been assisting Nicolay; Dr. William S.
Wallace of Springfield, brother-in-law and physician to the
President-elect; Ward H. Lamon and Elmer E. Ellsworth,
personal bodyguards; and several political associates: Orville
H. Browning of Quincy, Governor Richard Yates; John
Moore, former lieutenant governor; Ebenezer Peck of Chi-
cago, Norman B. Judd, and two Illinois officials, Jesse K.
Dubois and Ozias M. Hatch.
122 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
Also included in the party were some young men of
Robert Lincoln's age; Robert Irwin, a banker; three army
officers; and a number of newspaper correspondents — all
making a party of thirty-six, 2 not including the train crew.
The train moved along at between twenty-eight and thirty
miles an hour, running under special printed instructions
from Superintendent Bowen. After leaving Springfield at
eight o'clock the train had the following schedule to Decatur:
Jamestown — 8:15
Mechanicsburg — 8:30
The train came to a stop at the station. As Lincoln came
to the rear platform he could see long lines of saddle horses
tied about the neighborhood. 3 He knew farmers had ridden
miles over the prairies to bid him good-by and God-speed.
His warm personal friends gathered around to shake his hand
after he had made a brief address somewhat in the same
vein as that given at Springfield earlier in the morning.
He spoke of the possibility of never seeing his Decatur
friends again, so John Quinlan, who was there, said years
later. 4 He spoke of the dangers of his trip to Washington
and his life spent in Central Illinois. He thanked those in
Decatur for their kindness to him. 5 After these few remarks
he left the car and moved through the crowd shaking hands.
Henry Villard, New York Herald correspondent, filed this
dispatch to his newspaper:
"Arrival at Decatur
"Decatur, Feb. 11-9:30 A.M.
"An immense multitude awaited the arrival of the train
at the depot, and burst out in enthusiastic cheers as it moved
To Washington 123
up. The President left his car and moved rapidly through
the crowd, shaking hands to the right and left. After a stop-
page of a few minutes the train proceeded." 6
In the crowd was a little boy, William (Pat) Spangler,
who had been forbidden to come because he was so young,
but he was a husky, sturdy lad and walked from his home
nearly two miles east of the station. He made his way to
the railroad tracks, expecting to follow them to the station.
He had not gone far when he saw a soldier carrying a gun
patrolling the tracks. Pat did not like the looks of the
bayonet at the end of the soldier's gun and left the tracks
for the fields.
After he had passed the soldier he came back, across
ditches filled with water, to the tracks only to encounter an-
other soldier carrying a musket, and still later, a third one.
Each time Pat made a detour with the result that when he
reached the station he was a bedraggled youngster. When
the train came in, Pat crowded up close to the car. As Lin-
coln left the car Pat was the first to shake his hand. The
future president looked at him and said, "My boy, you must
have wanted to see me pretty bad."
Years later, Pat Spangler was the sole survivor of those
in Decatur who had seen Lincoln pass through on his way
to Washington. 7
After the scheduled five-minute stop, the train left De-
catur at 9:29 a.m. Lincoln never came to Decatur again.
East from Decatur the train schedule called for arrival at
Oakley at 9:45; Cerro Gordo, 9:55; Bement, 10:30; Danville,
12:12, and State Line at 12:30. Thomas Ross, a brakeman
on the train, who stood near Lincoln when he spoke from
the rear platform, was amazed at the large crowds, not only
in the towns and villages but along the track in the country. 8
Instructions for the operation of the train stipulated:
"This train will be entitled to the road and all other
trains must be kept out of the way.
124 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
"Trains to be passed and met must be on the side track
at least ten minutes betore the train is due.
"Agents at all stations between Springfield and State Line
must be on duty when this train passes and examine the
switches and know that all is right before it passes.
"Operators at telegraph stations between Springfield and
State Line must remain on duty until the train passes and
immediately report its time to Charles H. Speed, Springfield.
"All foremen and men under their direction must be on
the track and know positively that the track is in order.
"It is very important that this train should pass over
the road in safety and all employees are expected to render
all assistance in their power.
"Red is the signal for danger, but any signal apparently
intended to indicate alarm or danger must be regarded, the
train stopped, and the meaning of it ascertained.
"Carefulness is particularly enjoined.
"F. W. Bowen, Supt." 9
Despite all these instructions, a few miles east of Decatur
"there was an unscheduled stop while the train crew re-
moved a stake and rider fence that had been erected across
the right of way. It won its purpose. The President-elect
appeared and waved to the crowd." 10
John Hanks followed Lincoln to Washington and was
there for the inauguration. He visited Lincoln at the White
House and was in and around Washington for some time.
Hanks was anxious for an appointment of some kind but
received none. Neither did Dennis Hanks, who also made a
visit to Washington to see the President.
The visitor from Decatur that President Lincoln saw was
Governor Richard J. Oglesby, close personal and political
friend for many years. Oglesby arrived in Washington on
the evening of April 14, 1865, shortly before the President
and Mrs. Lincoln were to leave for the theater. The Presi-
dent asked Oglesby to go with him but Oglesby asked to be
excused as he was tired from his journey. He made an ap-
pointment, however, to see the President the next morning.
To Washington 125
A few hours later the President was shot and died at
7:22 a.m. the next morning. Oglesby was at his bedside when
he died. Later Oglesby was made President of the National
Lincoln Memorial Association to erect a monument to Lin-
coln. The monument in Springfield, Illinois, was dedicated
on October 15, 1874, with Oglesby delivering the oration,
an honor richly deserved by one of the original Lincoln
men 11 of Illinois.
Lincoln Law Cases In Decatur
Compiled from Edwin D. Davis' Macon County His-
torical Society manuscript, "Lincoln's Law Cases in Macon
County, Illinois"; Pratt: Lincoln Day by Day 1809-1839;
Pratt: Lincoln Day by Day 1840-1846; Thomas: Lincoln
Day by Day 1847-1853; Angle: Lincoln Day by Day 1854-
May 14 — Attends opening of two-day term of Macon
County Circuit Court, Judge Jesse B. Thomas, Jr., presiding.
Wrote the bond of costs in Little Berry Noe vs. James Cun-
ningham case in which Noe had a bill for a number of items
against Cunningham. Originally, Lincoln's law partner, John
T. Stuart, and Charles Emerson represented Noe. Verdict for
May 15 — Appointed guardian ad litem for the infant
heirs of John Lowry, deceased. John Lowry, administrator
of the estate of John Lowry, had filed a petition for the
sale of real estate.
June 5 — Lincoln answer, as guardian ad litem for Lowry
heirs, to petition to sell real estate, filed. Says he knows no
good reason why petition should not be granted.
Sept. 15 — In case of William and Cornelius Fellows vs.
128 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
Albert G. Snyder, Willis Oglesby and Abraham Keller,
Lincoln filed this statement: "I do hereby enter myself
security for costs in cause — A. Lincoln" and also "I do here-
by enter myself security to pay or cause to be paid all costs
— A. Lincoln." These were suits over notes.
Sept. 19 — Plea in case of Fellows vs. Snyder, Oglesby and
Keller filed, signed "Stuart and Lincoln" for the October
term of court.
(No fall term of court.)
Mar. 24 — Agreement filed by Stuart and Lincoln for
W. and C. Fellows and by Abraham Keller for the defendant:
"It is hereby agreed that the suit now pending in the Macon
County Court, W. and C. Fellows vs. A. G. Snyder and Co.
. . . and the same in Keller and Snyder be dismissed at the
costs of the Defendant."
June 3 — Stuart and Lincoln present for opening of three-
day term of court, Judge Samuel H. Treat presiding.
Lincoln is said to have written the agreement on file in
the case of John Sawyers vs. David Condell, an appeal case
from the justice court of Charles Emerson.
Lincoln appointed guardian ad litem of Amanda Gray.
In case of Henry M. Goran, school commissioner vs. Eliza-
beth Gray, wife of Lewis A. Gray, deceased, Lincoln "knew
of no reason why judgement should not be rendered in this
Appointed guardian of the infant heirs of Henry Butler
in petition to sell real estate. Lincoln made no objection to
petition which was granted by the court.
Case of Fellows vs. Snyder and others (Mar. 24, 1839)
dismissed "as per agreement on file."
June 4 — In David Adkins vs. Robert Hines, suit for slan-
der, Douglas and Benedict appeared for Adkins, and Stuart
and Lincoln and Charles Emerson for Hines. Plea written
by Lincoln is signed by Emerson for the defendant who is
found not guilty.
Plea written by Lincoln and signed by Emerson for de-
fendant in case of David Adkins vs. Levi Meisenhelter, a suit
for slander, filed. Case had been continued on previous day
at cost of the plaintiff.
Oct. 28 — Four-day term of court convenes. (Judge's
docket is missing making it impossible to determine Lin-
coln's cases except those in which his name is mentioned.)
Adkins vs. Meisenhelter slander suit (June 4, 1839, dis-
missed at cost of plaintiff.
Oct. 29 — Adkins vs. Meisenhelter slander suit appealed.
Oct. 31— Appointed guardian ad litem of the infant
heirs of Russell Shepherd, in Shepherd and Manly, Admrs.,
vs. Heirs of Russell Shepherd.
Appointed guardian ad litem for the infant heirs of John
Warnick in the case of William Warnick, Adm. vs. Heirs
of John Warnick.
Appointed by Judge Thomas to defend David Adkins,
indicted for larceny. Jury finds defendant not guilty.
May 26 — William Young, assignee of Thomas Devine, vs.
Ephrim Cox, a case to collect on a note. Emerson was coun-
sel for Young and Lincoln for Cox. Plaintiff awarded $154.99
and costs and charges.
May 27 — Henry Prather and John L. Anderson, trans-
acting business under the name, style and firm of H. Prather
and Co. vs. Samuel E. Nesbitt and James L. Nesbitt, trans-
acting business under the name, style and firm of S. E. and
J. L. Nesbitt. Suit to recover $87.23 of Samuel Nesbitt with
costs and charges.
Oct. — Benjamin Dillehunt vs. Kirby Benedict. Appealed
from justice court in which Dillehunt recovered a judgment
for working amounting to $33.53. Lower court sustained
and case appealed to Supreme Court on question of law with
L. Trumbull and J. Lamborn for Benedict; Emerson and
Lincoln for Dillehunt. (Supreme Court sustained lower
1 30 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
June 1 — Jacob Spangler, executor of William Hanks,
Jr., vs. Samuel Wood and Henry, for debt. Post and Lincoln
for Spangler; Emerson for Wood. Jury is waived and the
court awards $64.29 on a note to plaintiff (Lincoln's fee was
$5 according to estate papers of William Hanks, Jr.).
Emerson and Lincoln for Jacob Rhodes in suit against
Guy Helm. This was a dispute over work of building a
house. There had been an agreement to arbitrate in July,
1849, the arbitrators awarding the defendant $177.04, to be
secured by a note. Rhodes appealed to the circuit court.
Defendant was given leave to file additional pleas by Sept. 1.
James M. Barnes vs. Abraham Marquess, suit in chancery
to set aside a mill for relief. Docket says Gridley appeared
for Barnes and Emerson for defendant but later statement
by Judge David Davis shows Lincoln was in the suit, prob-
ably with Emerson. Case continued.
Lincoln's name was included with that of Post repre-
senting William Warnick in an ejection suit against John
Eckel which had been filed Nov. 16, 1849, with Emerson
representing Eckel. It was a suit in which Warnick sought
to recover a farm.
Nov. 14 — Rhodes vs. Helm, assumpsit suit (June 1,
1B50) comes to trial; Emerson and Lincoln for Rhodes; Post
for Helm. Jury disagreed and was discharged.
William Warnick vs. John Eckel, ejection suit (June 1,
1850), Post and Lincoln for Warnick; Emerson for Eckel.
Nov. 15 — Lincoln writes and files a bond for costs for
the plaintiff in Hill vs. Shelton G. Whitley. In this slander
suit Emerson represented Hill; Post represented Whitley.
Nov. 16 — In Anderson Froman vs. John Pearson, a case
of attachment on nine head of cattle, Post and Emerson
filed proof of publication for the plaintiff while Benedict
and Lincoln were to answer for the defendant by April 1.
Thornton and Lincoln file the defendant's answer in
William C. Redfield and Maria Redfield vs. Joseph C. De-
wees, a case involving a dower right. Emerson appeared for
the Redfields. Case continued.
Hill vs. Shelton Whitley again continued. (Nov. 15,
May 28 — Rhodes vs. Helm (Nov. 14, 1850) an assumpsit
suit with Emerson and Lincoln for Rhodes, is dismissed by
agreement, each party paying his own costs. Post represented
In Hill vs. Whitley trespass suit (Nov. 15, 1850), Emer-
son and Lincoln for the plaintiff secure leave from Judge
Harlan to open depositions.
May 30 — Hill vs. Whitley tresspass suit (Nov. 15, 1850 and
May 29, 1851) comes to trial with Emerson and Lincoln for
Hill; Post for Whitley. Jury finds for Lincoln's client award-
ing him five cents damages and costs, $41.78.
Lincoln and Benedict file the defendant's answer in the
Froman vs. Pearson case (Nov. 16, 1850) and case is con-
tinued at cost of the defendant.
Warnick vs. Eckel suit (June 1, and Nov. 14, 1850) with
Post and Lincoln for Warnick, again continued.
May 31 — In Fielding House vs. John G. H. Smith, John
C. Garver and Garland Wheeler, with Post and Lincoln rep-
resenting the defendants and Emerson representing the
plaintiff who sought to replevin tools, bed, black cow and
a calf. Emerson and Lincoln submitted the case to the Court
without a jury, the Court ordering that the defendants re-
store the property and pay the costs and charges.
In Redfield and Redfield vs. Joseph C. Dewees (Nov.
16, 1850) in which Lincoln and Thorton represented Dewees,
the court decided against Dewees declaring Maria Red-
field should recover her dower rights. A commission was
appointed to assign dowry and report at the November term
of court, at which time the commissioners' report was ap-
Lincoln represented Marietta King, Joseph King and
132 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
others in chancery suit against John Lee and others repre-
sented by Emerson. Case filed and continued.
Nov. 13 — Case of Froman vs. Pearson (Nov. 16, 1850)
first docketed in November, 1849, with Lincoln and Bene-
dict representing Pearson, is dismissed by agreement, each
to pay one half of all costs.
Lincoln represents Shelton G. Whitley in a suit brought
by Benjamin B. Austin, represented by Emerson and Wait.
Lincoln wrote and filed five pleas and an affidavit for his
client which were signed by Post and Lincoln. After having
agreed to submit the dispute to a referee, G. W. Powers,
Whitley refused to accept the award and Austin sued for
Nov. 14 — Emerson and Wait, attorneys for Benjamin
B. Austin in suit against Shelton G. Whitley, filed the pre-
vious day, dismiss the suit. Lincoln represented Whitley.
Lincoln is said to have written the bill for divorce on
file in the case of Sarah Ogden vs. Jonathan Ogden. In
place of alimony, Sarah Ogden received a bed, bed-stead,
and $400 and costs; $100 to be paid in open court and $300
on Dec. 25, 1852.
Nov. 15 — "On motion of A. Lincoln, an attorney and
counsellor at law of this court, it is ordered by the court
that Robert M. Evans of Indiana, an attorney and counsel-
lor at law of the courts of the State of Indiana, be admit-
ted to practise as such in this court."
In Warnick vs. Eckel ejectment case (June 1, 1850) John
Eckel, Elizabeth Eckel, Fredrick N. Neintkee, Rebecca Neint-
kee and Elinor Neintkee, represented by Emerson and Lin-
coln. An injunction was granted, Warnick being enjoined
from further proceedings in the ejectment suit. (See Nov.
Case of King et al vs. Lee et al (May 31, 1851) tried
with Lincoln representing complainants. Taken under ad-
visement. Lincoln copies a bond for the execution of a war-
ranty deed and has the clerk certify it.
June 3 — Warnick vs. Eckel, ejectment (June 1, 1850),
Post and Lincoln for plaintiff. Case continued.
Eckel vs. Warnick, injunction against ejectment (Nov.
15, 1851), Post and Lincoln for defendant. Plaintiff files
replication. Case continued.
June 4 — In John Edwards use of Andrew Edwards vs.
Israel Florey, an appeal case from the justice court, Emer-
son and Wait represented the plaintiff and Lincoln the de-
fendant. Judgment of the justice court awarding plaintiff
$77.65 and costs affirmed.
Case of Jesse Hoffman use of E. M. Thorpe vs. Andrew
Edwards use of John Edwards in which Post and Lincoln
represented Hoffmann, and Emerson and Wait the defend-
ant, an appeal case from the justice court, was dismissed by
the plaintiff after the cause to be tried had been submitted
to the court.
Thomas O. Smith, administrator of Rachel Owen vs.
William Prather, in a suit over a note with Lincoln repre-
senting Prather and Wait and Emerson the complainant,
case was continued.
Trustees of School of Township 16 vs. Henry Prather,
ejectment, Lincoln files declaration.
John G. Taylor vs. John B. Moffett, ejectment, Lincoln
representing Moffett. Plaintiff files declaration and defend-
ant is to appear and plead within 20 days.
June 5 — Benjamin F. Taylor vs. Samuel Rea, sheriff,
with Lincoln representing Rea, and Emerson representing
Taylor, suit to obtain payment of money. Case continued.
E. O. Smith vs. Ansen Packard in an appeal suit to re-
cover damages for a cow. Lincoln represented Smith and
Emerson represented Packard. In the justice court in Janu-
ary Smith had been awarded $9, "the value of one white
cow with red ears, two years old last fall, unjustly taken and
detained by the defendant," and costs amounting to $14.95.
1 34 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
In the circuit court, a jury awarded Lincoln's client $10 and
King et al vs. Lee et al (May 31, 1851), suit in chancery.
Jury found for the complainant represented by Lincoln.
Nov. 12 — Beecham Turpin vs. Alexander J. Wilson.
Emerson represented Turpin and Lincoln represented the
defendant. Wilson had appealed a justice court decision
awarding Turpin $5 and costs "for injuries done to one
large sow and pigs by dogs." A jury was waived and Judge
David Davis sustained the justice court award.
Daniel Peck vs. Anderson Froman, trespass on the case.
Lincoln and Thorp representing Peck took a non suit with
leave to reinstate. Emerson and Wait for Froman.
Nov. 13 — Thomas J. Moffett, Rebecca Moffett, William
Moffett, Elizabeth Moffett, Eliza Ann Moffett, Francis J.
Moffett, Edy Moffett, James H. Moffett, Caroline Moffett
and Mary J. Moffett vs. John B. Moffett, ejection. Lincoln
files defendant's plea.
Peck vs. Froman, in which a non suit with leave to re-
instate was entered the previous day, Lincoln joins issue on
John Hanks vs. Joshua B. Hanks, trespass on case, with
Lincoln representing John Hanks. Plaintiff dismissed case.
Lucinda Brown, assignee of Anderson Froman, vs. Dan-
iel Peck and Enoch Peck, Lincoln representing defendant,
and Post, the plaintiff. Case continued.
Benjamin F. Taylor vs. Samuel Rea, sheriff (June 5,
1852) Lincoln representing Rea and Emerson for Taylor.
Motion against sheriff to pay to Taylor the sum of $167.27,
due in execution against the real estate of John B. Moffett.
Rea to pay the money.
John G. Taylor vs. John B. Moffett, Lincoln for defend-
ant with Emerson and Wait for plaintiff. Case continued.
(In a Taylor vs. Moffett ejection case filed June 4, 1852, the
defendant did not appear on Nov. 12, 1852 and award was
made to plaintiff of $349.37 and costs.)
May 23 — John Hanks vs. Joshua B. Hanks, trespass on
case on promises. Post and Lincoln for plaintiff are given
leave to amend their declaration.
May 24 — Trustees of School vs. Henry Prather; Lincoln
and Moor for plaintiff; Emerson and Wait for defendant.
Case continued by agreement.
May 26 — In Thomas O. Smith vs. William Prather, debt
case, a line is drawn through Lincoln's name in the docket
as an attorney for defendant. Oglesby and Thorton repre-
In Daniel Peck vs. Anderson Froman, a declaration was
filed signed "Lincoln" and Thorp. Froman, a tenant of
Peck, was charged with cutting down trees and carrying
away rails. Agreement in case was signed by J. S. Post for
defendant and E. Thorp for plaintiff.
In Lucinda Brown, assignee of Anderson Froman vs.
Daniel Peck and Enoch Peck, assumpsit, a line is drawn
through Thorton and Lincoln in the docket and Thorp
substituted as attorney for the defendant.
May 27 — John G. Taylor vs. John B. Moffett, ejection.
Lincoln for the defendant; Emerson and Wait for the plain-
tiff. Case is submitted to court without a jury. Find for the
defendant. Plaintiff asks a new trial.
Thomas J. Moffett and others vs. John B. Moffett. Lin-
coln for the defendant; Emerson and Wait for plaintiff. Case
Oct 24 — Thomas J. Moffett and others vs. John B. Mof-
fett (Nov. 13, 1852, May 27, 1853). Post and Lincoln for
defendant. Case dismissed by agreement, the defendant to
pay all costs.
Oct. 25 — John Hanks vs. Joshua B. Hanks (May 23,
1853), Post and Lincoln for the plaintiff. Because Emerson
was one of Joshua B. Hanks' lawyers and was now presid-
ing as judge, a change of venue was granted to Sangamon
136 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
Taylor vs. Moffett, ejection (May 27, 1853). Lincoln for
defendant. Continued by agreement to be tried by some
attorney to be agreed upon by parties at next term of court.
Trustees of School vs. Prather (May 24, 1853) Lincoln
and Moor for plaintiff. Agreement made for case to be tried
by attorney of the court.
Oct. 26 -Taylor vs. Moffett, ejection (May 27, 1853)
continued by consent. (In October 1853, there was agree-
ment that this case be tried by some attorney to be agreed
upon at next term of court.)
(There are no other cases on record with Lincoln's name
for this year.)
June 2 — Richard J. Gatling, William Martin and Henry
Prather vs. The Great Western R.R. (Wabash), ejection;
Lincoln and Prather for plaintiffs; Wait and Oglesby for
the railroad. Plaintiff files his declaration and notice. Case
Oct. 31 — In Gatling and others vs. Great Western R.R.
(above) parties agree that the suit shall be submitted to the
judge in vacation, the judgment to be entered at this term
of court. Cause continued.
June 2 — Taylor vs. Moffett, ejection (May 27, 1853,
Oct. 25, 1853, Oct. 26, 1854), Lincoln for defendant. Change
of venue to Sangamon county.
June 4 — Jacob Overholt and David Squier vs. County
of Christian, change of venue from Christian county to
Macon county. Concerns building courthouse in Christian
County, the county charging foundations were not deep
enough. Thornton and Lincoln for defendant.
June 5 — Thornton and Lincoln file plea for defendant
in above case from Christian county. Case heard and verdict
for plaintiff. Assess the charges at $657.87.
June 6 — Gatling and others vs. Great Western R.R.
(June 2 and Oct. 31, 1855). Case continued.
June 7 — Appeal of Christian county case (June 5, 1856)
by defendant to Supreme court. (In supreme court judg-
ment of lower court was reversed.)
July 3 — Gatling and others vs. Great Western R.R.
(June 6, 1856) case submitted to court without jury. Taken
under advisement. [On April 5, 1858 and July 22, 1858, and
on March 8, 1859, this case was continued and on Aug. 10,
1859 the plaintiff, by Attorney J. L. Post, dismissed the suit.
Lincoln and Prather had started as attorneys for the plain-
Apr. 10 — Lincoln and Herndon are given as counsel for
Wesley W. Ayers in suit of attachment against Lyman Dud-
ley, but on the printed form of Gallagher, Wait and Oglesby,
the name of Herndon is written in and papers are signed
Herndon, Gallagher, Wait and Oglesby.
July 19 — In above case the defendant did not appear and
judgment of $1,294.80 and costs were granted.
In Wesley W. Ayer vs. John N. Willard, attachment, de-
fendant did not appear and judgment of $1,294.80 granted.
Printed form has "Lincoln and Herndon" written in as at-
torneys for plaintiff.
138 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
Spring term of circuit court opened, Mar. 7, began busi-
ness on Tuesday, Mar. 8. Illinois State Chronicle of Decatur
in Mar. 10 issue said: "Personal — Hon. A. Lincoln, of Spring-
field, was in the city on Monday last."
In Justice Courts.
Lincoln appeared in Justice of Peace courts of Decatur
many times over a long period of years according to state-
ments of old settlers. There are no records of justice court
Adopted at editors' convention in Decatur
February 22, 1856
We, a portion of the editors of the anti-Nebraska press of
the State of Illinois, in convention assembled at the city of
Decatur, on the 22d day of February, 1856, in view of the
universal commotion that pervades our whole country upon
the subject of slavery, and the rights and obligations and
responsibilities of the General and State Governments and
territories, with reference thereto, and in view of the neces-
sity which exists for the establishment of a basis of common
and concerted action among ourselves, hold it to be our
privilege, and a present duty, to define our position in the
preamble and resolutions as that basis:
We recognize fully the legal rights of the Slave States
to hold and enjoy their property in slaves under their State
laws, and within the jurisdiction of those laws, and we further
recognize their constitutional right to a return of such "per-
sons owing service under the laws of a State" as may escape
beyond the jurisdiction of those laws under which said service
is held due.
We recognize our constitutional obligation to discharge
all our duty imposed by that clause of the constitution which
provides for the suppression of domestic violence, in any of
the States, when lawfully called on to that end.
We disclaim any thought or purpose to annoy or disturb
our sister States in the peaceful enjoyment of any of their
140 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
rights, and in this declaration we mean what we say, with,
full regard to its letter and spirit.
We hold that freedom of speech and the freedom of the
press, (under just responsibilities for the abuse of either,)
are indispensable attributes of freedom.
We hold (in accordance with the expressed opinion of
Mr. Jefferson), that territories acquired since the adoption of
the constitution, have not a constitutional right to demand
admittance into the sisterhood of States.
We hold that the right and duty of Congress to consider
the application for the admittance of any proposed State, to
judge of the effect of such admittance on the present and
prospective prosperity, rights and safety of the States of the
Union collectively and severally, and to decide as their wis-
dom may determine, is a sacred and invaluable right — our
only practical constitutional means of self-protection against
the general corruption of the whole body politic by the inocu-
lation of any poisonous matter into our extremities, by the
uncontrolled will of outsiders; a right never to be sur-
rendered, but to be maintained at all hazards.
We hold that our general government is imbued through-
out the whole organization with the spirit of Liberty, as set
forth originally in the Declaration of Independence, and en-
dorsed annually on the Fourth of July by the throngs of
assembled freemen in all parts of our country; — that it rec-
ognizes FREEDOM as the rule, and SLAVERY as the excep-
tion, made and provided for as such: — and that it nowhere
sanctions the idea of property in a man as one of its prin-
ciples, nor as being in harmony with its principles.
Entertaining the foregoing views, and intending in good
faith to abide by them, cheerfully according to the slave
States all the rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution,
and disclaiming any intention of interference, either directly
or indirectly, with the institution of slavery in the States
where it exists, but being determined firmly to maintain the
rights of the non-slaveholding States, and to resist by the
Constitutional means at our command, all aggression by the
A n t i-Ne b raska Plat jo rm 141
principle and power of slavery upon these, be it
Resolved, That the conditions which are demanded under
plea of "rights" as being essential to the security of Slavery
throughout its expanded and expanding area, are incon-
sistent with freedom, an invasion of our rights, oppressive
and unjust, and must be resisted.
Resolved, That we are in favor of the restoration of the
Missouri Compromise, or in other words, that we will strive
by all legal means to restore to Kansas and Nebraska, a legal
guarantee against Slavery, of which they were deprived at
cost of the violation of the plighted faith of the Nation.
Resolved, That we hold the settlement of the true rela-
tions of the General and State Governments to Slavery, and
the restriction of Slavery to its present authorized limits, as
the paramount questions for consideration.
Resolved, That we deem it the duty of all who concur in
these views to unite for the purpose of giving them practical
effect, without regard to difference of opinion upon any other
issue: that in regard to office we hold merit, not birth place
to be the test, deeming the rule of Thos. Jefferson — is he
honest? is he capable? — the only true rule; that we shall
maintain the Naturalization laws as they are, believing as we
do, that we should welcome the exiles and emigrants from
the Old World, to homes of enterprise and of freedom in
That while we are in favor of the widest tolerance upon
all matters of religious faith, we will repel all attacks upon
our Common School System, or upon any of our Institutions
of an educational character, or our civil polity by the ad-
herents of any religious body whatever.
Resolved, That second only to the Slavery extension ques-
tion, as now presented to the people of Illinois, the demand
142 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
for reform in the administration of the State government is
the most urgent and imperative; that we look with alarm
upon the disorder of the State finances and the frequently
illegal and unwarranted expenditures of the people's money
by the Nebraska party now in power; that the good name
and future credit of the State, demand that this reform be
early commenced, and rigidly pursued, until Illinois is once
more restored to the rank and reputation of a debt paying
The Fence Rails
From How Abraham Lincoln Became President, by
J. McCan Davis
(The Illinois Company, Springfield, 111. 1909)
Governor Richard J. Oglesby said to Mr. Davis:
"I had known John Hanks all my life. He was a Demo-
crat, but a great friend of Lincoln. Years before they had
gone together on a flatboating expedition down the Missis-
sippi. He had wanted to vote for Lincoln for United States
senator, but he could not do this without voting for the local
Republican candidates for the Legislature. As soon as he
heard that Lincoln might be nominated for President, he
was bound to vote for 'Old Abe.'
"One day I was talking with John about Abe and he said
that in 1830 they made a clearing 12 miles west of Decatur.
There was a patch of timber — fifteen or twenty acres — and
they cleared it; they had built a cabin, cut the trees, mauled
rails, and put up a fence.
" 'John,' said I, 'did you split rails down there with old
" 'Yes; every day,' he replied.
" 'Do you suppose you could find any of them now?'
" 'Yes,' he said. 'The last time I was down there, ten
years ago, there were plenty of them left.'
" 'What are you going to do tomorrow?'
" 'Then,' said I, 'come around and get in my buggy, and
we will drive down there.'
144 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
"So the next day we drove out to the old clearing. We
turned in by the timber, and John said:
" 'Dick, if I don't find any black walnut rails, nor any
honey-locust rails, I won't claim it's the fence Abe and I built.'
"Presently John said, 'There's the fence!'
"But look at these great trees,' I said.
" 'Certainly,' he answered. 'They have all grown up since.'
"John got out. I stayed in the buggy. John kneeled down
and commenced chipping the rails of the old fence with his
knife. Soon he came back with black walnut shavings and
" 'There they are!' said he, triumphantly, holding out the
shavings. 'They are the identical rails we made.'
"Then I got out and made an examination of the fence.
There were many black walnut and honey-locust rails.
'John,' said I, 'where did you cut these rails?'
" 'I can take you to the stumps,' he answered.
" 'We will go down there,' said I.
"We drove about one hundred yards.
' 'Now,' said he, 'look! There's a black walnut stump;
there's another, another, another. Here's where we cut the
trees down and split the rails. Then we got a horse and
wagon, and hauled them in, and built the fence, and also
"We took two of the rails and tied them under the hind
axle-tree of my new buggy, and started for town. People
would occasionally pass, and think something had broken.
We let them think so, for we didn't wish to tell anybody
just what we were doing. We kept right on until we got to
my barn. There we hid the rails until the day of the con-
"Before the convention met I talked with several Repub-
licans about my plan, and we fixed it up that old John Hanks
should take the rails into the convention. We made a banner,
attached to a board across the top of the rails, with the in-
The Fence Rails 145
The Rail Candidate for President in 1860.
Two rails from a lot of 3,000 made in 1830 by John
Hanks and Abe Lincoln, whose father was the first
pioneer of Macon county.
"After the convention got under way, I arose and an-
nounced that an old Democrat desired to make a contribu-
tion to the convention. The proceedings stopped, and all
was expectancy and excitement. Then in walked Old John
with the rails. Lincoln was there in a corner, trying to escape
" 'How are you, Abe?' said John, familiarly, as he passed.
" 'How are you, John?' Lincoln answered with equal fa-
"Then the convention cheered and cheered. There were
loud and persistent calls for a speech from Lincoln. Abe had
not known that the rails were to be brought in. He hardly
knew what to say about them.
" 'Gentlemen,' he finally said, 'John and I did make some
rails down there; and if those aren't the identical rails we
made, they certainly look very much like them.' "
John Hanks's Letter
In Illinois State Journal, Springfield, Illinois,
July 16, 1860, republished from the
Illinois State Chronicle, Decatur, Illinois.
Editor of the Chronicle — Dear Sir: The following article
appeared in the Columbus Statesman a few days ago, which I
take from the Coles County Ledger:
"Hanks Against Lincoln — We were informed a day or
two ago by a delegate to the Baltimore convention, who
called at our office, that John Hanks, the man who assisted
Abe Lincoln to make those rails about which the Republi-
cans are making such a terrible hubbub, has announced
himself opposed to the election of Lincoln. Hanks, who has
never been a Democrat, is against the Republican nominee
because he knows Lincoln to be a humbug and nothing else.
Hurrah for Hanks!"
To this article I desire briefly to reply. If my choice for
President, or how I shall vote as between two candidates for
that office, is worth considering at all, I claim it as a simple
right to be correctly represented. I am but a farmer and
regret to say not an educated one. — I never have been a
candidate for any office, nor do I expect ever to be. Whilst
I can with all truthfulness say this, yet I have never been a
negative man in politics. From my boyhood I have been a
constant voter with the Democratic party in all essential
elections; I have thought that party to be upright and straight
forward in all the principles it has really adopted. So late
as 1858, I voted for Mr. Douglas against my old friend,
148 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
Mr. Lincoln. For forty years I have looked upon the party
with pride and hailed its success with pleasure; but as Mr.
Douglas made a speech in Decatur in 1855, and in my hear-
ing, spoke so pleasantly and so honorably of the old Whig
party and of Mr. Clay, its leader, after having for 15 years,
in discussing general politics, when I used to love to listen to
him so well, spoken so complainingly and so abusively of
that party and of Mr. Clay, charging upon it and him many
very bad and mean things, until listening to him I learned to
look upon both as dangerous and full of evil. The thought
struck me that for the future I never would judge of a party
or its leaders by what an opponent might say, and this con-
clusion I mean to follow the balance of my life. How foolish
it is to abuse a party because my friend may do so, and then
praise the same party because that friend may change and
do so; he may be designing — I would, in all probability be
a dupe. Ever since Mr. Douglas made that speech in 1855
he has been abusing the Republicans just like he used to
abuse the old Whigs. I am tired of this kind of warfare. I
think it is not right to do so, and as Mr. Douglas further
said in that speech that he was in the habit of sometimes
changing his politics, I did not know but that it was about
time for him to begin to excuse and cease to abuse the Re-
publicans, and made up my mind to let him go in time.
Now as to entirely changing my politics, I cannot say I have
done this, but for the life of me I can see nothing in the
Republican party that any honest Democrat can seriously
oppose. It is true, were they such a party as Mr. Douglas
used to say they were, I could see objectionable features
about it; but then is it wise to believe everything Mr. Doug-
las has said, when he tells us he sometimes changes, and
when we have near us honest men, known to be purely hon-
est for more than thirty years, who deny all this and propose
to tell us the true state of the case and to give us the true
principles of that party? I think not. Besides this when we
have for years been opposed, in politics, to a man who has
again and again seen his party defeated, and has himself
John Hanks' s Letter 149
sometimes failed and still seen that man true to his colors,
re-arming and re-entering the field to try to uphold and
successfully plant his colors upon the side of victory; when
all the time he knew he had but to change once to win and
yet has never changed, I think I may say never faltered,
how are we to respect him. Such a man I have known Mr.
Lincoln for thirty years to be.
In boyhood days we toiled together; many are the days we
have lugged the heavy oar on the Ohio, the Illinois and the
Mississippi Rivers together; many are the long cold days we
have journeyed over the wild prairies and through the forest
with gun and axe; and though it is now pleasant to refer to
it, well do I remember when we set out together in the cold
winter to cut and maul rails on the Sangamon river, in
Macon county 30 years ago to enclose his father's little home,
and from day to day kept at work until the whole was fin-
ished and the homestead fenced in. We often swapped work
in this way and yet, during the many years we were asso-
ciated together as laborers, sometimes flat-boating, sometimes
hog-driving, sometimes rail-making and, too, when it was
nearly impossible to get books he was a constant reader; I
was a listener. He settled the disputes of all the young men
in the neighborhood and his decisions were always abided
by. I never knew a man so honest under all circumstances
for his whole life. Thus associated with Mr. Lincoln, I
learned to love him and when, in 1858, he was a candidate
for the first time within my reach, against my feelings and,
I may say, against my convictions, my old party ties induced
me to vote for Mr. Douglas. My Democratic friends all de-
clared Lincoln was an Abolitionist. I heard him make a
speech in Decatur just before the election and I could see
nothing bad in it; but I was told by the party he was wrong
and yet I did not see how he could be, but they said so, and
I was a Democrat and went in. My wife used to say to me
that some day Abe would come out and be something; I
thought so too, but I could not exactly see how a man in
the lower walks of life, a day laborer, and hopelessly poor,
150 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
would ever stand much chance to get up very high in the
At last, one day at home, we heard that the Republican
State Convention was to be held at Decatur, and that they
were going for Abe for President. As soon as I found this
out I went into town and told a friend of Abe's that as great
and honest merit was at last to be rewarded in the person
of my old friend, Mr. Lincoln, by the Republican party, I
thought of the hard and trying struggles of his early days and
recollecting the rails we had made together thirty years ago,
made up my mind to present some of them to that conven-
tion as a testimonial of the beginning of one of the greatest
living men of the age, believing they would speak more in his
praise than any orator could, and honor true labor more than
the praise of men or the resolutions of conventions. On our
way to get the rails I told the friend of old Abe that if Abe
should be nominated for President I would vote for him;
everybody knows he has been, and I rejoice that I live to
give this testimony to his goodness and honesty, and hope I
shall live to vote for him for President of the United States
next November. Is there anything wrong in this? Who ought
to refuse to vote for as good and as great a man as he is? I
know that in voting for him I vote with the Republican
Party and will be considered as adopting its principles. As I
now understand him I see no reason why I may not do so;
our own party is divided and we have no Solomon to tell
who shall take the child. Slavery has divided the Democratic
Party, and nobody can blame Republicanism for the de-
struction that came upon us at Charleston. Slavery has dis-
united us — it has united the Republican Party, and if there
is any good about the question they have it all and we have
the trouble. If I understand Mr. Douglas now, he occupies
a position on this question just as distateful to the South
as Mr. Lincoln does — with this clear difference; The South
seems to understand Mr. Lincoln's position better than his
and to respect it a great deal more; and I am convinced that
if Mr. Douglas does not respect the nigger he does the mu-
John Hanks' s Letter 151
latto, and one brings just as much in Mobile as the other and
stands as high in the market.
Many of my Democratic neighbors will say I have done
wrong; but I know there are many who would do as I have
done were it not that they do not feel willing to break away
from party ties and encounter "the talk" of old friends. As
long as I have old Abe to lead me I know that I shall never
go very far from the right. Should he be elected President
and find any trouble in steering his new boat he has only
to remember how we used to get out of hard places by row-
ing straight ahead, and never by making short turns. The
tallest oaks in the forest have fallen by his giant arms; he
still wields a tremendous maul; out of the largest timber he
can make the smallest rails. I have seen him try a tough cut
and fail once; in the second trial he never failed to use it up.
Though not a very beautiful symbol of honesty I think the
rail a fitting one, and mean to present Abe with one of his
own make should he be elected, in the city of Washington
on the day of his inauguration, to be kept in the White
House during his administration.
Constitutional Union Party
State convention in Decatur, Illinois,
August 16, 1860
The Illinois state convention of the Constitutional Un-
ion party was held in Decatur August 16, 1860. John Bell of
Tennessee was the party's candidate for President, and Ed-
ward Everett of Massachusetts, the candidate for Vice Presi-
There were eighty-nine delegates representing thirty-six
counties at the Decatur convention. Buckner S. Morris of
Chicago called the convention to order at 9:00 a.m. J. W.
Chickering of Cook county was named temporary chairman.
Dr. Ward of Cook county introduced a resolution that all
delegates pledge to do all possible to elect the party candi-
dates and all who "will not accept this pledge shall not be
entitled to hold a seat and vote in the convention."
The morning session closed with the permanent organi-
zation naming John Rogers of Cook County president of the
At two o'clock Buckner Morris of Chicago made a lengthy
speech saying that he would not vote for a Republican for
dog pelter; that he would vote for any Democrat to defeat
Lincoln; that, if necessary, he would vote for Stephen A.
Douglas. There was loud applause. Morris then said that
Lincoln was an honest, upright, high-minded man but that
he was led by Abolitionists.
The state ticket nominated the following:
154 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
Governor — John T. Stuart, Sangamon County
Lieutenant Governor — Henry Clay, Blackburn, Rock Is-
Secretary of State — James Monroe, Coles
Auditor — James D. Smith, Sangamon
Treasurer — Jonathan Stamper, Macon
Superintendent of Public Instruction — D. J. Snow, San-
Presidential electors were named as follows:
Electors at large — M. Y. Johnson, Jo Davies County;
D. M. Woodson, Green County.
1. H. S. Hanchett, McHenry
2. John R. Rogers, Cook
3. Josiah Snow, McLean
4. Alexander I. Frick, Mercer
5. C. W. Irwin, Brown
6. D. A. Brown, Sangamon
7. John Cofer, Douglas
8. L. Noland, Marion
9. W. J. Yost, Alexander
Lincoln's Plea of Justification
in case of David Adkins vs. Robert Hines
And the said defendant comes and defends the wrong
and injury when, where &. as to the speaking and publish-
ing of the said several words of and concerning the said
plaintiff, as in his said declaration mentioned the said de-
fendant by leave of the court here for the purpose first had
and obtained according to the form of the statute in such
case made and provided, saith that the said plaintiff ought
not to have or maintain his aforesaid action thereof against
him, because he says that the said plaintiff, before the speak-
ing and publishing of the said several words of and concern-
ing the said plaintiff as in his said declaration mentioned,
towit, on the fifteenth day of March in the year of our Lord
one thousand eight hundred and thirtyeight, at the county
of Macon in the state of Illinois, did feloniously steal, take
and carry away certain goods and chattels, towit, five pigs
and five hogs of one George G. Deeds of great value, towit
of the value of fifty dollars — Wherefore he the said defend-
ant afterward, towit at the same several times when &. in
the said declaration mentioned at the county of Macon afore-
said, did speak and publish the said words of and concern-
ing the said plaintiff as in the said declaration mentioned as
he lawfully might for the cause aforesaid — And this he the
said defendant is ready to verefy [sic], wherefore he prays
judgement if the said plaintiff ought to have or maintains
his aforesaid action thereof against him &.
156 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
And for further plea in this behalf as to the speaking and
publishing of the said several words of and concerning the
said plaintiff, as in his declaration mentioned, the said de-
fendant, by leave of the court here for this purpose first had
and obtained according to the form of the statute in such
case made and provided, saith that the said plaintiff ought
not to have or maintain his aforesaid action thereof against
him because he says that the said plaintiff, before the speak-
ing and publishing of the said words of and concerning the
said plaintiff as in his said declaration mentioned, towit on
tht fifteenth day of March in the year of our Lord one thou-
sand eight hundred and thirtyeight at the county of Macon
in the state of Illinois, did feloniously steal, take and carry
away certain chattels, towit five pigs and five hogs of one
David Statesman of great value towit of the value of fifty
dollars — Wherefore he the said defendant afterward, towit,
at the said several times when &. in the said declaration men-
tioned at the county of Macon aforesaid, did speak and pub-
lish the same words of and concerning the said plaintiff, as
in the said declaration mentioned as he lawfully might for
the cause aforesaid . . . And this he is ready to verify where-
fore he prays judgement if the said plaintiff ought to have
or maintain his aforesaid action thereof against him.
Emmerson for Deft.
Pleas both traversed and issues joined in short hand by
Douglas & Benedict
Stuart & Lincoln
Filed 4th June 1839
H. M. Gorin Clk
Affidavit for New Trial for Robert Hines
(This document is in the handwriting of
Stephen A. Douglas)
Macon Circuit Court June
David Adkins pltf being sworn states on oath that since a
trial of this cause on yesterday he has discovered new testi-
mony of the facts time of which he had no knowledge until
since said trial was had and determined towit the testimony
of George Query and Judith Oglesby who reside in the said
county of Macon. This affiant expects to be able to prove
and believes that he can prove by same witnesses that at the
time he is charged to have stolen the hogs John G. Deeds
towit on the 15th day of September 1838 this affiant was
about twenty miles distant from the resident of said Deeds
where said hogs or pigs are said to have been stolen towit
that this affiant was in the Town of Decatur on that day and
for five or six days before and after that day whereas those
hogs are charged to have been stolen about twenty miles dis-
tant from Decatur & therefore that he could not have been
guilty of said charge.
Filed 6th June
1839 H. M. Gorin Clk
Lincoln Letter to John Hanks
From New Letters and Papers of Abraham Lincoln
by Paul Angle
Springfield, 111. Aug. 24. 1860
John Hanks, Esq
My dear Sir:
Yours of the 23rd is received — My recollection is that I
never lived in the same neighborhood with Charles Hanks
till I came to Macon county, Illinois, after I was twenty-one
years of age — As I understand, he and I were born in dif-
ferent counties of Kentucky, and never saw each other in
that State; that while I was a very small boy my father re-
moved to Indiana, and your father with his family remained
in Kentucky for many years — At length you, a young man
grown, came to our neighborhood, and were at our house,
off and on, a great deal for three, four or five years; and dur-
ing the time, your father, with his whole family, except
William, Charles, and William Miller, who had married one
of your sisters, came to the same neighborhood in Indiana,
and remained a year or two, and then went to Illinois —
William, Charles, and William Miller, had removed directly
from Kentucky to Illinois, not even passing through our
neighborhood in Indiana. Once, a year or two before I came
to Illinois, Charles, with some others, had been back to Ken-
tucky, and returning to Illinois, passed through our neigh-
borhood in Indiana. He stopped, I think, but one day, (cer-
tainly not as much as three); and this was the first time I
ever saw him in my life, and the only time, till I came to Illi-
nois, as before stated — The year I passed in Macon county
I was with him a good deal — mostly on his own place, when
160 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
I helped him at breaking prarie [sic], with a joint team of
his and ours, which in turn, broke some on the new place
we were improving —
This is, as I remember it — Dont let this letter be made
public by any means —
Yours very truly
Citations and Footnotes
1. Bess V. Ehrmann, The Missing Chapter in the Life of
Abraham Lincoln, p. 10.
2. Henry C. Whitney, Life on the Circuit with Lincoln,
3. William D. Howells, Life and Speeches of Abraham
Lincoln, p. 23.
4. Facsimile of Howells' biography with marginal correc-
tions in Lincoln's handwriting, published by Abraham
Lincoln Association, Springfield, Illinois, 1938.
5. William E. Barton, The Life of Abraham Lincoln, I,
footnote p. 139.
6. John G. Nicolay and John Hay, Abraham Lincoln: A
History, I, p. 45.
7. Ehrmann, The Missing Chapter in the Life of Abraham
Lincoln, p. 93.
8. Edwin David Davis, "Lincoln and Macon County, Illi-
nois, (1830-1831)," Journal of Illinois State Historical
Society, XXV April-July, 1932, pp. 69-71.
9. Whitney, Life on the Circuit with Lincoln, p. 90.
10. The Indiana census of 1820 lists Dennis Hanks as
twenty-one years old and one of the Thomas Lincoln
11. Edwin David Davis, "The Hanks Family in Macon
County, Illinois, (1828-1939)," Papers in Illinois His-
tory 1939, Illinois State Historical Society, p. 133.
12. Emanuel Hertz, The Hidden Lincoln: From the Letters
and Papers of William H. Herndon, p. 347.
162 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
1. Hertz, The Hidden Lincoln, p. 347.
2. Josiah G. Holland, The Life of Abraham Lincoln, p. 39.
3. Lincoln short autobiography written in third person in
1860 for John L. Scripps.
4. Decatur Review, Decatur, Illinois, February 11, 1926.
The interview with Hanks was written in 1885 but was
not published until Thomas B. ShoarT used it in his
Shelbyville, Illinois, paper in 1926 and republished it
in the Review.
5. Hertz, The Hidden Lincoln, p. 347.
6. E. B. Hitchcock, Story of Decatur, chap. 53.
7. Hertz, The Hidden Lincoln, p. 282.
8. Lincoln short autobiography (Scripps).
9. Hertz, The Hidden Lincoln, p. 281.
10. Howells, Life and Speeches of Abraham Lincoln, foot-
note p. 24.
11. Davis, "Lincoln and Macon County, Illinois," Journal
Illinois Historical Society, XXV, April-July, 1932, p.
12. E. T. Coleman, History of Decatur, chap. 19.
13. Ida M. Tarbell, In The Footsteps of The Lincolns, p.
14. Davis, "Lincoln and Macon County, Illinois," Journal
Illinois Historical Society, XXV, April-July, 1932, p. 90.
16. Hertz, The Hidden Lincoln, p. 347.
17. Paul M. Angle, New Letters and Papers of Lincoln, pp.
18. Davis, "Hanks Family in Macon County, Illinois," Pa-
pers In Illinois History 1939, p. 121.
19. Howells, Life and Speeches of Abraham Lincoln, p. 28.
20. William H. Herndon and Jesse William Weik, Hern-
don's Lincoln, I, p. 71.
21. Decatur Review, February 12, 1896.
22. Coleman, History of Decatur, chap. 24.
Citations and Footnotes 1 63
23. House Journal, Illinois State Legislature, January 31,
1831, p. 294.
1. John W. Smith, History of Macon County, p. 48.
2. Lincoln's short autobiography (Scripps): "In the autumn
all hands were greatly affected with ague and fever."
3. Smith, History of Macon County, pp. 32, 33.
4. Hertz, The Hidden Lincoln, p. 347.
5. Lincoln's short autobiography (Scripps).
6. Grant Foreman, "Illinois and Her Indians," Papers in
Illinois History 1939, pp. 108, 109.
7. Coleman, History of Decatur, chap. 8.
8. Smith, History of Macon County, p. 145.
9. Lincoln short autobiography (Scripps).
10. Benjamin P. Thomas, Lincoln's New Salem, p. 42.
11. Hertz, The Hidden Lincoln, p. 348.
12. Lincoln's short autobiography (Scripps).
13. Hertz, The Hidden Lincoln, p. 348.
14. Lincoln's short autobiography (Scripps).
16. Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years, I,
17. Thomas, Lincoln's New Salem, p. 42.
1. Decatur Herald, Decatur, Illinois, February 7, 1909.
2. Chicago Tribune, May 29, 1865. Original of letter
owned by Mrs. Mary Ellen Hanks Monon, daughter of
3. The Voice Of The Fair, Chicago, May 30, 1865.
4. Chicago Tribune, June 1, 1865.
5. The Voice Of The Fair, Chicago, June 8, 1865.
6. From the official record of the Board of Aldermen of the
City of Boston for the year 1865, furnished to Dr. Wil-
164 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
Ham E. Barton by William Alcott, librarian of the Bos-
ton Globe, in Additional Information — Abraham Lin-
coln's First Home in Illinois; The Lincoln Cabin on
Boston Common by William E. Barton, D.D., 1929.
7. The Liberator, Boston, July 21, 1865.
8. Advertiser, Boston, July 29, 1865.
9. Ibid., August 1, 1865.
10. New York Times, September 18, 1865.
11. State Chronicle, Decatur, Illinois, November, 1865.
12. Ehrmann, The Missing Chapter in the Life of Abraham
Lincoln, p. 46.
1. Photostat of original document in author's possession.
2. All election figures in this chapter from Illinois Election
Returns 1818-1848, Theodore Alvin Pease, editor, Illi-
nois State Historical Library, Springfield, Illinois, 1923.
3. John W. Starr, Jr., Lincoln and the Railroads, p. 14.
4. Harry E. Pratt, Lincoln Day by Day 1809-1839, p. xlvi.
5. Harry E. Pratt, Lincoln Day by Day 1840-1846, p. x.
6. Sangamo Journal, Springfield, Illinois, September 26,
1. Pratt, Lincoln Day by Day 1809-1839, pp. liv, Iv.
2. Sangamo Journal, Springfield, Illinois, April 15, 1837.
3. Harry E. Pratt, The Personal Finances of Abraham Lin-
coln, p. 26.
4. Pratt, Lincoln Day by Day 1809-1839, pp. 62-113.
5. Ibid., shown by day by day travel about circuit.
6. Jesse W. Weik, The Real Lincoln: A Portrait, p. 189.
7. Smith, History of Macon County, p. 43.
8. Macon County Circuit Court record, Book A, p. 100.
9. William E. Nelson, History of Macon County, I, 110.
10. Decatur Herald, February 7, 1909.
Citations and Footnotes 165
11. Macon County Circuit Court Record, Book A, p. 196.
12. Macon County Circuit Court record.
13. Ibid., Case No. 203, Book A, p. 223.
14. Macon County Circuit Court record.
15. Ibid., Book B, p. 32.
16. In a similar suit in Coles county in which Thomas Mc-
Kibben sued Jonathan Hart for slander demanding
$2,000, McKibben was awarded $200 and Lincoln was
paid a fee of $35. Sandburg: Prairie Years, I, 326.
17. Pratt, The Personal Finances of Abraham Lincoln, pp.
18. Weik, The Real Lincoln: A Portrait, p. 19L
19. Pratt, Lincoln Day by Day 1840-1846, p. 32.
20. Jane Martin Johns, Personal Recollections of Early De-
catur, Abraham Lincoln, Richard J. Oglesby, and the
Civil War, p. 62.
21. Ibid., p. 64. Piano story, pp. 64-66.
22. Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln: A History, I, 289.
23. Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years, I, 449.
24. Whitney, Life on the Circuit with Lincoln, p. 53.
25. Ibid., p. 55.
26. Weik, The Real Lincoln: A Portrait, p. 189.
27. Illinois State Chronicle, May 19, 1855.
28. Lamon, Life of Abraham Lincoln, p. 313.
1. Paul M. Angle, Lincoln Day by Day 1854-1861, p. 112.
2. J. McCan Davis, How Abraham Lincoln Became Presi-
dent, p. 32.
3. Angle, Lincoln Day by Day 1854-1861, p. xvi.
4. Alexander Davidson and Bernard Stuve, History of Illi-
nois, p. 642.
5. Illinois State Chronicle, April 14, 1855.
6. lournal of Illinois State Historical Society, V, No. 3,
October 1912, pp. 343-344; see also Decatur Herald,
June 9, 1912.
1 66 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
7. All Morgan Journal files up to 1858 were destroyed by
8. Arthur Charles Cole, The Era of the Civil War 1848-
1870, p. 127.
9. Davis, How Abraham Lincoln Became President, pp. 32»
10. Nicolay in 1856 was editor of the Pike County Free
Press, Pittsfield, Illinois, and endorsed the Decatur
11. Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln: A History, II, p.
12. Herndon and Weik, Herndon's Lincoln, II, p. 372.
13. David Donald, Lincoln's Herndon, p. 77. Donald be-
lieves Herndon's account of this episode is open to
14. In the Lincoln-Douglas debate at Ottawa, August 21,
1858, Lincoln said: "I have no purpose, directly or in-
directly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in
States where it exists."
15. Yates MSS, Illinois State Historical Library.
16. Davis, How Lincoln Became President, p. 37.
17. Roy P. Basler, Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and
Writings, p. 335.
18. Journal Illinois State Historical Society, V, No. 3, Oc-
19. Chicago Tribune, January 9, 1856.
20. Ibid., February 14, 1856.
21. Decatur Herald, June 9, 1912.
22. Albert J. Beveridge, Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1858, II,
24. Ida M. Tarbell, Life of Abraham Lincoln, p. 290.
25. Letter of March 18, 1856, to Illinois State Journal,
Springfield, and republished in Illinois State Chronicle,
Decatur, April 10, 1856.
26. The only existing file of the Illinois State Chronicle tell-
ing of the convention is in the possession of the Decatur
Citations and Footnotes 167
Herald and Review. It is scarred by fire but, with the
exception of a few words, the story is now preserved on
film as well as in the original publication.
27. Tarbell, Life of Abraham Lincoln, p. 291, quoting from
"an unpublished manuscript on the 'Formation of the
Republican Party in Illinois' " written by Paul Selby.
28. Benjamin F. Shaw, MS, McLean County Historical So-
ciety Library, Bloomington, Illinois.
1. The Great Western was under construction east from
Decatur to the Illinois-Indiana state line. On December
6, 1855, the Decatur State Chronicle published this an-
nouncement: "On Monday week next, the Danville ex-
tension of the Great Western Railroad will be opened
east from Decatur to Tolono, the crossing of the Chi-
cago branch of the Illinois Central railroad. . . . We are
not informed how soon the passenger trains will be put
on the extension. . . ." In March, 1856, a Great Western
time card printed in the Springfield, Illinois, State Jour-
nal carried this notation: "To Urbana after March 3,
1856" and "by stage to Homer, Danville, Covington, and
2. Decatur Herald, October 14, 1906.
3. Whitney, Life On the Circuit with Lincoln, pp. 90, 91.
4. State Chronicle, Decatur, May 15, 1856.
5. Ibid., June 5, 1856.
7. Letter in Gen. John M. Palmer collection in Illinois
State Historical Library.
8. Beveridge, Abraham Lincoln, 1 809-1 858, II, 395.
9. State Chronicle, August 7, 1856.
10. Ibid., September 11, 1856.
11. Angle, Lincoln Day by Day 1854-1861, p. 143.
1 68 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
1. Johns, Personal Recollections, p. 67.
2. Ibid., the farm was in Piatt county. Dr. Johns moved to
Decatur in 1854 and into the house on Johns' Hill in
3. Angle, Lincoln Day by Day 1854-1861, Revised edition
MSS in files of Abraham Lincoln Association, Spring-
4. Johns, Personal Recollections, p. 67.
5. Illinois State Chronicle (Daily), September 25, 1856.
8. Illinois State Chronicle (Weekly), October 16, 1856, re-
published from State Chronicle (Daily) of October 11,
1. Robert Todd Lincoln collection of the Papers of Abra-
ham Lincoln, Library of Congress. (In microfilm, Illi-
nois State Historical Library, Springfield, Illinois.)
3. Angle, Lincoln Day by Day 1854-1861, p. 239.
4. Coleman, Story of Decatur, chap. 168.
5. Basler, Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings,
6. Decatur Herald, February 7, 1909.
1. Chicago Press & Tribune, February 10, 1860.
2. The call for the convention was issued by Jesse W. Fell,
secretary of the State Central Committee, for the nomi-
nation of candidates for various state offices, select presi-
dential electors, and delegates to the National Repub-
lican Convention in Chicago.
Citations and Footnotes 1 69
3. Central Illinois Gazette (West Urbana), February 15,
4. Press & Tribune, February 17, 1860.
5. Charles A. Church, History of Republican Party in Illi-
nois, pp. 73, 74.
6. Davis, How Lincoln Became President, p. 59.
7. Illinois State Journal, May 7, I860.
8. Ibid., May 5, 1860.
9. Press & Tribune, May 10, 1860.
10. Central Illinois Gazette, May 16, 1860.
11. Illinois State Journal, May 10, 1860.
12. Ibid., October 27, 1879. Reprint of John Moses' rem-
iniscences in Winchester, Illinois, Independent.
13. Ibid., May 26, 1879.
14. The Diary of Orville Hickman Browning, 1850-1864,
edited by Theodore Calvin Pease and James G. Ran-
dall, I, 405.
15. Decatur Review, November 28, 1908, reprint from Port-
land, Oregon, Oregonian. Joseph Gaston, newspaper-
man, coming to Illinois, was requested by an Ohio news-
paper to attend the Decatur convention and make a
report of the proceedings. Gaston also declared that Lin-
coln was not passed over the heads of the audience but
came from behind the presiding officer's platform where
he was seated with other distinguished Republicans be-
fore the convention opened.
16. The Diary of Orville Hickman Browning, 1850-1864, p.
17. Ibid., p. 407.
18. Ibid., p. 405.
19. Press & Tribune, May 10, 1860.
20. District 1, Thomas J. Turner; 2, William R. Plate; 3,
D. L. Hough; 4, Richard H. Cullom; 5, William A.
Grimshaw; 6, Stephen T. Logan; 7, H. P. H. Brownell;
8, Dr. F. A. Carpenter; 9, D. T. Linegar.
21. Convention officers were: President, Joseph Gillespie,
Madison County. Vice presidents: Selden M. Church,
Winnebago; Ira O. Wilkinson, Rock Island; John H.
170 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
Bryant, Bureau; Henry Grove, Peoria; Benjamin F.
Childs, Calhoun; James C. Conkling, Sangamon; N. M.
McCurdy, Fayette; John Schell, St. Clair; James C.
Jones, Gallatin. Secretaries: Dr. J. W. Willard, McLean;
C. W. Mercer, Clinton; C. R. Judson, Stephenson; F. A.
Dallam, Henderson; William Gagan, Livingston.
22. Lamon, Life of Abraham Lincoln: From His Birth to
His Inauguration, pp. 444, 445.
24. The banner contained two errors. It was "John" Hanks
instead of "Thos.," and Lincoln's father was not the
"first" pioneer, there being 1,122 in Macon County
when he arrived.
25. Press & Tribune, May 10, 1860.
26. Illinois State Journal, May 11, 1860.
27. Tarbell, In The Footsteps of The Lincolns, p. 392.
28. Davidson & Stuve, History of Illinois, footnote p. 703.
29. Decatur Review, October 2, 1895.
30. The Diary of Orville Hickman Browning, I, 405.
31. State candidates nominated were: for governor, Richard
Yates of Morgan County; auditor, Jesse K. Dubois of
Lawrence; secretary of state, Ozias M. Hatch of Pike;
treasurer, William Butler of Sangamon; superintendent
of public instruction, Newton Bateman of Morgan.
32. Illinois State Journal, May 11, 1860.
33. Press & Tribune, May 11, 1860.
34. Illinois State Journal, May 26, 1879.
35. Burrows interview, Decatur Herald, February 7, 1909.
36. Isaac N. Phillips, Abraham Lincoln By Some Men Who
Knew Him, pp. 62-68.
1. James G. Randall, Lincoln The President, Springfield
to Gettysburg, I, 178.
2. Illinois State Journal, August 9, 1860.
3. Ibid., July 10, 1860.
Citations and Footnotes 171
4. Original in Lincoln Papers in Library of Congress; mi-
crofilm in Illinois Historical Library.
1. Hertz, The Hidden Lincoln, p. 350.
2. William E. Baringer, A House Dividing; Lincoln as
President Elect, p. 267.
3. Chicago Tribune, February 12, 1861.
4. Decatur Review, August 26, 1900.
5. Chicago Tribune, February 12, 1861.
6. New York Herald, February 12, 1861; Illinois State
Journal, February 12, 1861.
7. Spangler story: Coleman, Story of Decatur, chap. 125.
8. Tarbell, Life of Abraham Lincoln, p. 411.
9. Clint Clay Til ton, Lincoln's Last View of Illinois Prairies.
11. William E. Baringer, Lincoln's Rise to Power, p. 266.
Angle, Paul M. Here I Have Lived: A History of Lincoln's
Springfield, 1821-1865. Springfield: The Abraham Lin-
coln Association, 1935.
. Lincoln, 1854-1861: Being the Day-by-Day Activities
of Abraham Lincoln from January 1, 1854, to March 4,
1861. Springfield: The Abraham Lincoln Association,
. ed. New Letters and Papers of Lincoln. Boston: Hough-
ton Mifflin Company, 1930.
Arnold, Isaac N. The Life of Abraham Lincoln. Chicago:
Jansen, McClurg & Company, 1885.
Baringer, William E.: Lincoln's Rise to Power. Boston: Lit-
tle, Brown and Company, 1937.
. A House Dividing: Lincoln as President Elect. Spring-
field: The Abraham Lincoln Association, 1945.
Barton, William E. The Life of Abraham Lincoln. 2 vols.
Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1925.
. Abraham Lincoln and His Books. Chicago: Marshall
Field 8c Company, 1920.
. The Women Lincoln Loved. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-
Merrill Company, 1927.
Basler, Roy P. Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writ-
ings. Cleveland and New York: The World Publishing
Beveridge, Albert J. Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1858. 2 vols.
Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1928.
Brink, McDonough & Co. History of Macon County. Phila-
delphia: Brink, McDonough & Co., 1880.
Browning, Orville H. The Diary of Orville Hickman Brown-
ing. T. C. Pease and J. G. Randall, eds. Springfield: Illi-
nois Historical Collection, 1927-1933.
Charnwood, Godfrey R. B. Abraham Lincoln. New York:
Henry Holt and Company, 1917.
Church, Charles A. History of the Republican Party in Illi-
nois. Rockford, 111.: Wilson Brothers Company, 1912.
Cole, Arthur Charles. The Era of the Civil War, 1848-1870.
Centennial History of Illinois. Vol. 3. Springfield: Illi-
nois Centennial Commission, 1919.
Davidson, Alexander, and Bernard Stuve. History of Illinois,
from 1673 to 1873. Springfield: Illinois Journal Com-
Davis, J. McCan. How Abraham Lincoln Became President.
Springfield: The Illinois Company, 1909.
Davis, Edwin David. "Lincoln and Macon County, Illinois,
1830-1831" in Journal of The Illinois State Historical
Society, April-July, 1932, vol. XXV, numbers 1 and 2,
. "The Hanks Family in Macon County, Illinois, 1828-
1939" in Papers in Illinois History, 1939. Springfield:
Illinois State Historical Society, pp. 112-152.
Ehrmann, Bess V. The Missing Chapter in the Life of Abra-
ham Lincoln. A number of articles, episodes, photo-
graphs, pen and ink, sketches concerning the life of Abra-
ham Lincoln in Spencer County, Indiana, between 1816-
1830 and 1844. Chicago: Walter M. Hill, 1938.
Foreman, Grant. "Illinois and Her Indians" in Papers in Il-
linois History 1939. Springfield: Illinois State Historical
Society, pp. 67-111.
Herndon, William H. and Weik, Jesse William. Herndon's
Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life. Etiam in
Minimis Major. The History and Personal Recollec-
174 A braham Lincoln in Decatur
tions of Abraham Lincoln. Chicago, New York and San
Francisco: Belford, Clarke & Company, 1889, 3 vols.
Reprint Springfield: The Herndon's Lincoln Publish-
ing Company, 1921.
Hertz, Emanuel. The Hidden Lincoln: From the Letters and
Papers of William H. Herndon. New York: The Vik-
ing Press, 1938.
. Abraham Lincoln: A New Portrait. 2 vols. New York:
Horace Liveright, Inc., 1931.
Holland, Josiah G. The Life of Abraham Lincoln. Spring-
field, Mass.: Gurdon Bill, 1866.
Howells, William D. Life of Abraham Lincoln. Reprint,
Abraham Lincoln Association, Springfield, 111., 1938.
Johns, Jane Martin. Personal Recollections of Early Decatur,
Abraham Lincoln, Richard J. Oglesby, and the Civil
War. Decatur, 1912.
. "The Nomination of Abraham Lincoln to the Presi-
dency, an Unsolved Psychological Problem" in Journal
of the Illinois State Historical Society, vol. X, pp. 561-
Lamon, Ward H. Life of Abraham Lincoln: From His Birth
to His Inauguration as President. Boston: James R. Os-
good and Company, 1872.
Lewis, Lloyd. Myths After Lincoln. New York: Harcourt,
Brace and Company, 1929.
Nelson, William E., ed. City of Decatur and Macon County.
Chicago: The Pioneer Publishing Co., 1910.
Nicolay, John G., and Hay, John. Abraham Lincoln: A His-
tory. 10 vols. New York: The Century Co., 1890.
Olden, Peter H. "Anton C. Hesing, The Rise of a Chicago
Boss" in Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society,
September 1942, vol. XXXV, no. 3, pp. 260-287.
Pease, Theodore C, ed. Illinois Election Returns 1818-1848.
Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1923.
Phillips, Isaac N. Abraham Lincoln By Some Men Who
Knew Him. Edited with notes and foreword by Paul M.
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Pratt, Harry E. Lincoln 1809-1839, Being the Day-by-Day
Activities of Abraham Lincoln from February 12, 1809
to December 31, 1839. Springfield: The Abraham Lin-
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. Lincoln 1840-1846, Being the Day-by-Day Activities of
Abraham Lincoln from January 1, 1840 to December 31,
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. The Personal Finances of Abraham Lincoln. Spring-
field: The Abraham Lincoln Association, 1943.
Randall, James G. Lincoln The President: Springfield to
Gettysburg. 2 vols. New York: Dodd, Mead %z Com-
Richmond, Mabel E. Centennial History of Decatur and
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and Decatur and Macon County Centennial Association;
Review Publishing Co., 1930.
Riddle, Donald W. Lincoln Runs for Congress. The Abra-
ham Lincoln Association. New Brunswick: Rutgers Uni-
versity Press, 1948.
Sandburg, Carl. Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years. 2 vols.
New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1926.
Smith, John W. History of Macon County, III., from its or-
ganization to 1876. Springfield: Bokker's Printing House,
Tarbell, Ida M. Life of Abraham Lincoln. New York: The
Macmillan Company, 1923.
. In The Footsteps of The Lincolns. New York: Har-
per & Brothers, 1924.
Thomas, Benjamin P. Lincoln's New Salem. Springfield: The
Abraham Lincoln Association, 1934.
. Lincoln, 1847-1853: Being the Day-by-Day Activities
of Abraham Lincoln from January 1, 1847, to December
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. Abraham Lincoln. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1952.
Tilton, Clint Clay. Lincoln's Last View of Illinois Prairies.
176 Abraham Lincoln in Decatur
Danville, Illinois: Interstate Printing Co. Privately
Weik, Jesse W. The Real Lincoln, A Portrait. Boston:
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1922.
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Robert Todd Lincoln Collection. Microfilm of the Papers
of Abraham Lincoln, in Illinois State Historical Li-
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Coleman, E. T. History of Decatur and Macon County. In
the files of the Decatur Herald and Review, Decatur,
Hitchcock, Edward B. Story of Decatur. In the files of the
Decatur Herald and Review, Decatur, Illinois, 1924.
Lincoln Lore. Bulletin of Lincoln National Life Foundation,
Fort Wayne, Indiana; Dr. Loius A. Warren, editor.
Central Illinois Gazette, Champaign, Illinois.
Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois.
Decatur Herald, Decatur, Illinois.
Decatur Review, Decatur, Illinois.
Illinois State Chronicle, Decatur, Illinois.
Illinois State Journal, Springfield, Illinois.
New York Times, New York, New York.
Lincoln and the city of Decatur
are unforgettably linked. The tall,
rawboned youth left his stamp on
the growing town. For here, in days
to come, a new political party in
Illinois was to be launched— the Re-
publican Party. Lincoln was present
and almost immediately became its
Young Lincoln split rails and
helped his father build a cabin for
their first Illinois home. The title
"rail-splitter" conferred on him
years later at the Republican State
Convention held in Decatur was a
compliment and an asset to the
humble Abe, who expected only
one hundred votes for the Presi-
dential nomination at the Republi-
can National Convention to be held
This book, written by a Decatur
editor, is based on valuable source
material. Free from romantic imag-
inings, it presents the true, factual
story of Abraham Lincoln in De-
catur, with a new approach to the
time, the place, and the man.
ihoui the Author
Otto R. Kyle is editor of the Decatur (Illinois) Review's edi-
torial page, on which his column, "By the Way," has appeared
for many years. Previously he was city editor of the Review, of
the Quincy (Illinois) Whig, and St. Louis correspondent of
the Associated Press. A member of the Masonic Lodge, the
Decatur Club, and the Illinois State Historical Society, Mr.
Kyle has given numerous talks on Abraham Lincoln before
civic, educational, and other groups.
VANTAGE PRESS, Inc., 120 West 31st St., New York 1, N. Y.